Austin Dillon heads into the 59th running of the Daytona 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX) with an enviable performance record none of the other 39 drivers in the race matched last year.
In four restrictor-plate points races in 2016, Dillon was the only driver in the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series lineup who finished in the top 10 all four times.
And while the third-generation racer is still looking for his first victory in 121 career Cup starts, his consistency in restrictor-plate races makes him a good candidate for a possible breakthrough victory this time around.
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In seven prior Cup races at Daytona International Speedway, Dillon has five top-10 finishes. His Richard Childress Racing team always brings fast cars here and Dillon clearly knows how to keep his nose clean in this type of racing.
The challenge now is to improve from being consistent to being victorious.
“To take it to that next level, I’ve watched a lot of tape,” said Dillon during Wednesday’s Daytona 500 Media Day. “Seeing what it’s going to take. I sat down with our engineers and crew chiefs, and I think the biggest thing is just getting a little bit more aggressive in the side-drafting department.”
Dillon said that although his Daytona 500 car was slow in time trials, he was pleased with how he drove in the Advance Auto Parts Clash. “It’s probably one of the best drafting races I’ve ever had, I think, looking back at it,” said Dillon. “We put ourselves in a position against two different sets of teammates to have a shot to win.”
So now, the big prize is at hand. Dillon won the Daytona 500 pole as a rookie in 2014. This time, he wants to take the race victory.
“I want to win the Daytona 500,” he said. “Stage points matter, but to me, I’d like to win this race.”