by Ryan Isley
It’s like déjà vu all over again with Richard Childress Racing. Only this time, it is Ty Dillon – not Austin Dillon – who is getting a ride from his grandfather.
When I heard that Ty Dillon would run the No.33 Cheerios Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing in the 2015 Daytona 500, it really came as no surprise. Remember – it was Ty’s older brother Austin who ran his first Daytona 500 in 2013 in the same car.
It would not shock me one bit if the plan for Ty in 2015 is similar to what Richard Childress Racing did in 2013 with Austin, which is allow him to drive in the Daytona 500 and then in a handful of other races throughout the season to get his feet wet for a full-time ride in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2016. In 2013, Austin ran in a total of 11 races for his grandfather’s Sprint Cup Series team while also running a full season in the Nationwide Series and winning that series’ championship. It would make sense for that to be the same plan going forward for Ty, as he will be two months older than Austin was when he raced in his first Daytona 500. It would also put Ty right on the same schedule age-wise in 2016 as Austin was for his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series in 2014.
Ty is coming off his first full season in the Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series in 2014, winning one race and finishing fifth in the final standings, just six points from being in a three-way tie for third. In 33 races, he was tied for the second-most top-5s in the series with seven and his 24 top-10s were the fourth-most among drivers competing for the championship. He had just three finishes worse than 15th and just one worse than 19th (he finished 30th at Charlotte in October). That race in Charlotte dropped him from 3rd to 5th in the standings, which is where he remained for the rest of the season.
There are a couple of things that may slow down the process for Ty and keep him from starting in the Sprint Cup Series until 2017.
One is that Austin is coming off an unspectacular rookie campaign in the Sprint Cup Series, where he had just one top-5 and four top-10s while finishing 20th in the standings. He also lost the rookie of the year battle to Kyle Larson. This came after Austin spent two full seasons in the Nationwide Series, which is exactly where Ty would be as well after 2015. Because of Austin’s rookie season, Richard Childress Racing might choose to wait an additional season to bring Ty up to the Sprint Cup Series.
Doing so would also make sense because the more important thing that could hamper the progress for Ty is that Richard Childress Racing has all three of its Sprint Cup Series drivers – Austin, Paul Menard and current series runner-up Ryan Newman – are currently under contract through 2016. One way around this would be for Richard Childress Racing to add a fourth Sprint Cup team, which is something it may consider since the driver in question would be Ty Dillon.
But first things first – Ty’s real initial test comes in February.