Austin Dillon in Boston
With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff shifting to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend, championship contender Austin Dillon spent Tuesday visiting with media and fans in the Boston area. Dillon, the 27-year-old pilot for Richard Childress Racing's iconic No. 3 team, enters Sunday's ISM Connect 300 tied for 12th in points.
A total of 16 drivers make the playoffs, which puts Dillon on the bubble to reach the second round after a top-20 finish in the opening postseason race last weekend.
"This a big weekend for us. I made a mistake on pit road last weekend, which kind of set us back, so we want to come to New Hampshire and have a great race and get ourselves in a good position moving forward," said Dillon. "I always enjoy coming up to this area, especially during this time of year when the leaves are changing and it's starting to cool off a little bit. New England is awesome, and I know a lot of the other drivers feel the same way."
Dillon won his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this season, taking the checkers at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May's Coca-Cola 600, the longest race of the season. Dillon finished the regular season with four top-10s, including three top-fives. Dillon has just one top-10 finish in seven career starts at NHMS, but is hoping to build off a solid 15th-place finish at the 1.058-mile track in the July Overton's 301.
"I thought (the PJ1) held on good throughout the race in July; I'm a fan of it," said Dillon in reference to NHMS laying down more PJ1, a sticking agent to help provide more grip through the turns. "July's race was a blast and everyone is excited about it this time around. We're going to be aggressive and just go after it this weekend."
On Tuesday, Dillon held a working lunch with reporters at seafood restaurant in Dedham, Mass. The 28-year-old pilot cracked lobster, sampled some New England Clam Chowder and lobster bisque, and even carved a pumpkin with his #AD3 hashtag emblazoned on it for social media.
Dillon also met with fans who were notified through a social media campaign that Dillon would be in town. Dillon posed for photos, signed memorabilia, and handed out tickets, drivers' meeting passes and coolers ahead of Sunday's ISM Connect 300. He also played a little football with some of his youngest fans.
He followed up the visit to in Dedham with media appearances at Fox Boston, NBC Boston, and a satellite media tour (SMT), where he spoke with television stations in Portland, Maine, Manchester, N.H., and Burlington, Vt., as well as a 1-on-1 with NESN.
Dillon had a career-year in 2016, finishing inside the top-10 13 times and qualifying for the final Chase for the Cup playoff. Dillon finished the 2016 campaign in 12th, but is looking to make a bigger splash in the inaugural Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff. He finished 16th last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.
"Playoff racing is all about minimizing your mistakes, keeping yourself in good position, and knowing where those others guys (ahead of you in points) are at," Dillon said. "That's so important, especially as you get to the later races. Right now we're focused on New Hampshire and making sure we get every detail right and get as many stage points as we can just to ensure we transfer to the next round."
Qualifying for the ISM Connect 300 will take place on Friday, Sept. 22, followed by a Tripleheader Saturday of racing on Sept. 23 that includes the Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 playoff race, the Whelen Modified Tour F.W. Webb 100, and the American-Canadian Tour ACT Invitational. The ISM Connect 300 will drop the green flag on Sunday, Sept. 24 at 2:00 p.m.