It’s almost a given that Austin Dillon will be NASCAR’s 2014 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year. He’ll run another full Nationwide Series schedule this year before moving up to Cup. His grandfather, legendary team owner Richard Childress, plans to run him in six to eight (maybe more) Cup races this year to prepare him for 2014.
With Dillon still registered as a Nationwide driver, he can run unlimited Cup races without jeopardizing his rookie status. (That’s why Danica Patrick, who ran 10 races last year, remains eligible for the Cup ROTY awards this year.) Dillon plans to run some Cup races for Circle Sports (the Joe Falk-owned associate of RCR) and might even get some starts for owner James Finch at Phoenix Racing.
“We don’t know how many Cup races he’ll run because so much depends on sponsorship,” Childress said Jan. 11 at Daytona International Speedway. “Since the old rule about seven races ruining your rookie status is gone, we might run him more than that. And that goes for Ty, too. [Ty Dillon, Austin’s younger brother, will run his second full season in the Camping World Truck Series before going to Nationwide in 2014.] We’re going to give them both some Cup races this year.”
Childress hasn’t said so publicly, but insiders say he’s been thinking seriously about giving Austin the iconic, stylized No. 3 for this year’s Cup races. Nobody has carried that number in Cup since RCR star Dale Earnhardt died on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. If Dillon runs No. 3 this year, it’s almost a certainty he’d keep that number when he competes for 2014 ROTY.