Dillon enjoying consistent rookie season, wants more

Seth Livingstone - NASCAR Wire Service Saturday, Aug 23 1466

Whether or not he makes the Chase, whether or not he wins Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, 2014 has been a learning experience for Austin Dillon.

“If I could hit the reset button, there are so many things I would do differently up to this point,” said Dillon, who finds himself 22 points behind Greg Biffle for the final spot on the Chase Grid and two points ahead of rookie rival Kyle Larson going into Saturday’s IRWIN Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“You have certain restarts, certain things you’ve done to the car during practice you wish that you would have taken back out. You wish you wouldn’t have said certain things to make changes on the car (but) you just let your crew (make them) because they have more experience than you.

“I could probably have improved (at some tracks). Now, having a notebook going back for those races, is just going to help.”

Overall, Dillon says he has few regrets about his rookie season because drivers learn from their mistakes.

“At least the good ones do,” he said. “I just think having that start-over button would have been nice. But that is why you have yellow stripes on the back of your bumper – to let everybody know you are learning.”

Once 2014 is in the rearview mirror, Dillon says he will do as he did after his rookie campaigns in the NASCAR Campnig World Truck and NASCAR Nationwide Series. He’ll sit down and re-evaluate what he did right and what he could have done better.

“I was able to come back and win championships in the other two series after our first year,” he pointed out. “ I would love to be able to do that in the Cup Series. I think it’s a possibility. You just have to reset and set goals higher.”

Although his chances to make the Chase are dwindling, Dillon is in no way writing off this season. But, like Marcos Ambrose, Paul Menard and Larson, Dillon he knows he doesn’t have much chance of cracking the Chase field of 16 without a win at Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond.

He intends to go all out.

“Being a rookie I don’t have much to lose,” he said.

His more likely reward would come if he were to prevail in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle with Larson, who has posted five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes this season.

Dillon, has only one top-five (a fifth at Daytona) and three top 10s. His edge has come via consistency. Dillon has finished every race and leads all Sprint Cup drivers in percentage of laps completed (99.8%). Larson’s quest has been dogged by three did-not-finishes.

“I think that’s a really cool stat, having run the most number of laps of any car in the field,” Dillon said. “I think that is very special for us, as a rookie. Obviously, I want to run futher up front more often. But consistency is a good thing.”