Austin Dillon’s brief foray into Sprint Cup racing in the Stewart-Hass #14 has already come to an end. But has the damage already been done? Has Dillon’s No.3 Nationwide Series team lost their chance for the championship?
Let start with the numbers:
After the Zippo 200
1 3 Austin Dillon 730 Leader 21 0 13
2 12 Sam Hornish Jr 727 -3 21 1 16
3 7 Regan Smith 725 -5 21 2 14
4 11 Elliott Sadler 718 -12 21 0 13
5 20 Brian Vickers 712 -18 21 0 13
After the Childrens Hospital 200
1 12 Sam Hornish Jr 769 Leader 22 1 17
2 11 Elliott Sadler 756 -13 22 0 14
3 7 Regan Smith 754 -15 22 2 14
4 3 Austin Dillon 754 -15 22 0 13
5 20 Brian Vickers 751 -18 22 0 14
As you can see, Sam Hornish Jr is leading this title chase by sheer consistency. Leading in top 10’s, at the top of Top 5’s (behind only Brian Vickers who will have a lot of his focus on his recent promotion to Sprint Cup as Mark Martin moves to the No. 14 Sprint Cup Machine), Hornish is putting in the work required to be a champion. There is always so much pressure put on winning, and yes, winning is very important. But it must be said, Jeff Gordon once won 10 Cup races in a season, and didn’t win the championship.
There is so much made of momentum in this sport. It is absolutely shocking that a team in this tight of a points race would give up all practice, qualifying, etc for a driver who notoriously struggles on road courses. In a place where Dillon could use the most seat time possible, he got none. The stated goal for the Richard Childress Racing No.3 has been a championship, but with the recent decision making, you have to wonder. Does Childress want a championship for his grandson? Or does he just want Dillon in Cup?
Clearly Dillon would have been insane to turn down an offer like driving the No.14 Mobil-1 Chevrolet. However, there are times that even Godfather type offers like this can be refused. If Dillon came out and said last weekend that he was offered the ride, but wanted to focus on winning a championship for his team, and was focused on the bigger picture for the No.3 team, would anyone begrudge him? It is a fairly monumental task ahead of Dillon and the No.3 team. Hornish is an experienced championship level driver, and any further slip ups for the No.3 team might be curtains on their championship chances.