CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — While driving Dale Earnhardt’s legendary black No. 3 Chevrolet last season was the experience of a lifetime for Austin Dillon, “nothing crazy happened” in his rookie season.
He wants that to change in 2015.
“We have to start getting crazier,” Dillon said Thursday at NASCAR’s annual media tour event. “We have to make things happen. We need to be in the Chase. We need to be a part of the chaos at the end of the year.”
Dillon had just one top-five and four top-10 finishes in his first season at the Sprint Cup level driving one of NASCAR’s most recognizable cars.
That lack of production kept him out of the Chase’s new playoff-style format implemented in 2014.
“That is what this year is about — stepping out and going after it, more so than (last) year,” Dillon said. “I think people know how we approached last year — and we did it right — but now it’s time to make fire.”
The 24-year-old Dillon went about getting a jump start on his goal of making the Chase when he had a sit-down meeting with crew chief Gil Martin after last season.
The goal was to create a blueprint for success.
Ultimately, Dillon said they discussed his need to come to the track better prepared on race weekend.
“I know it takes more than what I gave it last year,” Dillon said. “The good thing is we had a decent year last year and when you know what those are, you should be able to take those and make them better.”
The second season in the same automobile seems to work for him.
Dillon won the Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011, his second full season racing trucks. He moved up the then-Nationwide Series the following year and won the championship a year later in 2013.
It would be a long-shot for him to do the same at the Sprint Cup level, given the inherent pressure and competition.
Dillon admits that racing the Intimidator’s black No. 3 Chevy involved a lot of pressure that came with high expectations. But he’s not about to back down.
“I want to put more pressure on myself,” Dillon said.
Dillon said one of the goals this year to be stronger — and more aggressive — on restarts.
We have to push ourselves more and make things happen,” Dillon said.
Dillon’s talent is indisputable.
He’s won Rookie of the Year awards at the K&N Series East, the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series.
But he’s come to realize it will take more than just reputation to win at the Sprint Cup level.
“You can’t rely on talent, because everyone at that level has talent,” Dillon said. “Some people can rely on talent and that is unbelievable. But it is going to take more for me to get prepared better and be ready when I get to the track to make it happen.”
The Chase is his goal, he said.
“It’s amazing,” Dillon said. “I enjoyed it and I want to be a part it. It’s really going to push us this year.”