By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season for the full-time drivers in the series leading into February’s running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: Seven
Career Wins: Two
Austin Dillon’s 2019 campaign can be described as ambivalent.
On one side, his playoff streak of three consecutive snapped as he struggled finding consistency on race days as shown with a dip on his average finish from 17.5 in 2018 to 19.5.
Add insult to injury, he failed to score a top-five for the first time since becoming full-time in 2014 and ended up a career worst 21st in points, equaling his 2015 campaign which was previously the only year he failed to be inside the top-20 at season’s end.
On the contrary, Dillon was able to achieve career highs in poles with three (Fontana, Talladega and Chicagoland) which was the first time he’s led the field to the green flag since 2016.
He also led a career-high 70 laps (46 from the July race at Daytona before being collected in a The Big One) this year and his average start of 16.5 is the second best behind 14.0 from that very same year he last won poles.
While he only mustard six top-10s with two sixth place finishes at both the spring Richmond and fall Talladega races being his best, Dillon wrapped up the 2019 campaign with an eighth at Homestead.
Dillon said after the finale that having a top-10 after the disappointing season his entire No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet squad had is definitely a momentum booster as change would indeed be on the horizon shortly thereafter.
“It’s really special to end the year with a top-10 finish. It’s been a hard year,” Dillon said. “We’ve changed our bodies and everything, just trying to get closer to the competition and working really hard. It was the first car we’ve had all year that’s been really competitive at these 1.5-mile tracks. We’ve had some good qualifying efforts, but we were racy tonight and that was good to see.
“You have to be pretty proud of that last finish of the season. There are a lot of different things for us as a team next year. Hopefully we can put it all together and just have a better year.”
Two major changes will happen going into the 2020 campaign, Dillon will not only become a father in June, but will have a familiar person sitting on top of the pit box.
Justin Alexander will reunite with Dillon, hoping it’ll be enough to snap a 71-race winless streak.
Alexander had spent the past season being the leading man on RCR’s Research & Development (R&D) program. Yet, it didn’t stop him from being crew chief for Austin’s brother Ty Dillon for five races along with Daniel Hemric at the spring Richmond race and Tyler Reddick’s two Cup starts.
“It feels great to be teamed up with Austin again after a year of working in an R&D position,” Alexander on returning as a full-time crew chief. “The relationship that we have been able to build over the years is one that I know can lead to more poles and wins.”
The duo found tremendous success in their two seasons together at the Cup level, highlighted by having enough fuel to score their maiden win in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600 and of course the chaotic final lap in the 2018 Daytona 500 which saw Dillon turn Aric Almirola for the biggest triumph of his career.