GRIMES, Iowa (AP) — Chase Elliott’s brilliant start in the NASCAR Nationwide series has overshadowed the steady if unspectacular debut of fellow rookie Ty Dillon.
Dillon believes he’s finally ready to push Elliott in the standings.
Dillon scored his first top-five finish in 18 races last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Dillon, driving the No. 3 car his brother Austin piloted to the Nationwide title last season, is 30 points behind Elliott heading into this weekend’s race in Indianapolis.
“If Chase Elliott wasn’t having the season he’s having, we’d be having one of the most talked about, spectacular rookie seasons there’s been in a while,” Dillon said Tuesday during a promotional stop in Iowa ahead of the Aug. 2 race at Iowa Speedway. “But the pressure he’s put on us by having a great start — his team has done an awesome job — is really pushing us to want to be better. And we’ve really worked on that.”
The fact that Austin, 24, finished last season in first place before moving up the Sprint Cup series made many forget that he fought through adversity for much of last season. It’s a path the 22-year-old Ty has become all too familiar with.
Dillon won twice in the Trucks series last season and finished second in the standings while racing for his grandfather’s Richard Childress Racing team. That performance, along with a fourth-place finish in 2012, left Dillon as one of the more promising young drivers in the sport.
But Dillon’s inexperience has hurt him more than once this season.
Dillon has already finished in the top 10 12 times. But he’s also been haunted by common rookie mistakes, like missing pit stalls and, most notably, picking up a pair of speeding penalties while running with the leaders in Las Vegas.
“There’s been mistakes. I’ve made plenty of mistakes this year that have really taken me out of the opportunities to have top-5 and to have the opportunity to win races,” Dillon said. ‘Our whole team has been sloppy, and that’s just part of being a rookie.”
But Dillon also said that he expects more out of himself than other rookies because of the time he spent with his brother as Austin progressed through the Trucks and Nationwide series. In fact, Ty told his team that their collective inexperience could only be used as an excuse for the first half of the season.
Dillon has since shifted his focus to tracking down Elliott — although Elliott made it tougher by picking his third win last weekend.
“For us, it’s not enough. We want to be in the top-5. We want to be winning races. To be fourth in points, we’re in a good striking distance, lying in the weeds. We want to start making some noise, and we have some good momentum coming off of Chicago,” Dillon said.
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