NASCAR: In defense of Austin Dillon and all family drivers

Austin Dillon has become synonymous with the phrase “Silver Spoon”, referencing his relationship to his NASCAR team owner. It’s time to stop associating him with this moniker. He is not the first driver to be given a ride due to his family ties, he sure won’t be the last, and his talent has been on full display this season.

You can definitely make the argument that Austin Dillon came up to the NASCAR Cup Series way too soon. But with a Truck Series championship in 2011 and an Xfinity Series championship in 2013, you cannot deny that the talent is there.

After entering the Cup Series full-time in 2014, his first two seasons were anything but stellar. He recorded just nine top 10 finishes in 72 races and finished in 20th and 21st place in the championship standings for a declining Richard Childress Racing organization, his grandfather’s team.

But it looked like the growing pains were slowly going away in 2016, when he recorded 13 top 10 finishes to earn himself a playoff spot. In 2017, he earned his first win following a fuel mileage gamble in the Coca-Cola 600. In 2018, he won the Daytona 500 in controversial fashion, spinning Aric Almirola to win the “Great American Race”.

The reaction to this win was, to put it mildly, filled with rage and enough swear words to make Angry Grandpa tell you to calm down.

Look at any other driver in the field that day. If they had done the exact same thing to Almirola to win the biggest race they ever could win, would the reaction have been the same?

Since there is a negative cloud around Austin Dillon, and even Ty Dillon for that matter, fans continue to have a negative opinion of them.

Why? Because they have a family connection? NASCAR has been all about family. You continue to see it to this day with Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Take a look back at the 1990s and early 2000s: Michael Waltrip, Kyle Petty, Todd Bodine, John Andretti, Kenny and Steve Wallace, Phil Parsons, etc.

Are these family drivers considered to be “Silver Spoon” drivers because they are related to more successful NASCAR drivers, ended up competing in NASCAR as well, and ended up always standing in the shadows of their relatives?

Do you really believe the only reason the Dillons are in NASCAR all together is because of their grandfather?

I find that hard to believe.

If Austin Dillon left Richard Childress Racing tomorrow, I would bet the farm that he could find a stable, competitive ride.

Still don’t believe me? Just look at this season. He has recorded four top five finishes and five more top 10 finishes in a car that has run in the top 15 to top 20, and he won the race at Texas Motor Speedway to secure a playoff spot for the fourth time in the last five years.

Even in just the past four races, look at what he has accomplished. He finished in ninth place in the second race at Dover International Speedway, and so far in the playoffs, he has finished in second at Darlington Raceway and fourth at Richmond Raceway. He sits in sixth place in the championship standings with one race to go in the round of 16 and an average finish of 3.0.

Austin Dillon has talent. I believe he still has a long way to go to develop into a true contender, but he is slowly turning into a late bloomer, and above all else, he is bringing Richard Childress Racing back to life. It’s time to stop giving drivers the “Silver Spoon” moniker, and it’s time to start recognizing talent when it shows up in our faces. That starts with Dillon.