Considering his situation, Austin Dillon is especially composed.
That situation? NASCAR’s first playoff cutdown comes after Sunday’s race at Dover, but if they happened today, Dillon wouldn’t make the cut. The bottom four of the 16 current playoff drivers don’t advance to the second round, and at No. 13 in the standings, Dillon’s just on the wrong side of the bubble.
But considering that, he doesn’t sound worried. In fact, he actually sounds fairly comfortable with where he’s at.
“We’ve given ourselves an opportunity to advance,” Dillon told the Observer on Wednesday.
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Dillon is actually tied with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who is No. 12 in the standings. But by virtue of Stenhouse’s better top finish so far in the playoffs (his best is 15th at New Hampshire, while Dillon’s is 16th at Chicago), he has the tiebreaker.
“Wish I could have those races back, but I can’t dwell on it,” Dillon said. “You’ve got to go to Dover and beat the guys that we’re racing. We’ve got two guys we’ve gotta beat, and I’m thankful for that opportunity.”
Dillon, 27, is making only his second playoff appearance (albeit in consecutive years), but you don’t have to go back far in Dillon’s history to find a similarly tight points situation.
In 2013, he went into the championship race of the Xfinity Series (then the Nationwide Series) at Homestead leading by eight points – next to nothing in the playoff format.
Dillon even struggled at the start of that race before pulling things together and finishing 12th. Sam Hornish Jr., the driver chasing him, finished eighth, leaving Dillon with a three-point cushion – and the championship trophy.
Could he get a similar outcome Sunday?
“If we have a good day Sunday,” Dillon said, “we’re gonna make it to the next round and stay in the playoffs.”
Dillon finished 13th at Dover earlier this year, and last year in the postseason came in eighth at the track. If he advances, don’t be surprised.
He certainly won’t be.