Richard Childress is Austin Dillon’s team owner. But more importantly, he’s Dillon’s grandfather.
So when the 25-year-old driver’s car went sailing into the Daytona International Speedway catch fence on the final lap of the Coke Zero 400 early Monday morning, Childress understandably feared the worst.
Thankfully, Austin emerged from his mangled No. 3 car about a minute later and waved to the crowd after suffering only a bruised tailbone and forearm.
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Childress, a six-time Sprint Cup Series champion team owner, recalled those tense moments immediately after his grandson’s incident, in an interview on Tuesday night’s edition of "NASCAR Race Hub" on FOX Sports 1.
"When I saw the car go into the catch fence — I saw the 3 — I knew it wasn’t going to be good," Childress said. "And at that point I just started praying. When he hit the fence, I could see the cage was still intact."
"When the 2 car came down through there and hit him as hard as he did, I didn’t know if he (Dillon) already had his belts undone," Childress said. "That probably scared me worse than anything. I just stood there and was praying."
"It was somewhat of a heart stopper there because we couldn’t get him to respond on the radio," said Mike Dillon, a former NASCAR driver. "But after looking at things, (the impact) ripped everything out of the car. … It’s such a tight-knit group, that whole pit road and all the garage. I didn’t get halfway up pit road and guys on other teams came over and said, ‘Hey, he got out and everything’s good.’"
"He’s OK," said Childress, who put Dillon in a Sprint Cup Series car last season after his grandson won titles in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. "At 25, he understands the sport. He’s been through it since he was just a little kid.
"We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly in this sport. That’s what we do for a living. That’s what we all every day get up to do. It’s just part of our job."