(Cover Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
By Adam Carabine
In case you missed it, StatChat is counting down the days ‘til the 2023 Daytona 500. Every two days, we will have a new article featuring one of the 36 charters of 2022.
11th Place – Austin Dillon – 2,227 pts
RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING – CHEVROLET
4th Best Full-Time Cup Series Season – It was a season of hits and misses for Austin Dillon in 2022. It featured the most Top 5s (5) he’s ever had in a single season – as well as the most DNFs (6). It also featured a win at the most crucial time: the last race of the regular season, which pushed him into the playoffs. All of this amounted to a middle-of-the-road season as far as Average Finish goes. His 16.56 was the 4th best of his career (out of 9 full-time Cup Series seasons).
24 Laps Led in 2022 – Austin Dillon’s 24 laps led in 2022 (which were three less than his 27 in 2021) were spread out throughout the season. Even in the one race that he won, the summer Daytona race, he only led 10 laps. He led a single lap of the Daytona 500, and various laps at Martinsville, Watkins Glen and Kansas.
36% Finishes Between 11th and 20th – Of the 36 races on the 2022 schedule, Austin Dillon’s preferred finishing position was between 11th and 20th. He finished between 11th and 20th 13 times over the course of the season, which really is nothing to scoff at. It may not have been Austin Dillon’s best season, and obviously the ultimate goal is Top 5s and wins, but finishing consistently within the top half of the field is important. RCR, while once a juggernaut in the Cup Series, has not been consistently among the top teams for a while, and so to have a driver like Dillon who can make the most of his opportunities is important.
-263 Pass Differential in 2022 – One thing Austin Dillon can do to have a better showing in 2023 (while recognizing that there are many things that every driver wants to improve on year-to-year) is to work on his Pass Differential. Over the course of the season, Austin Dillon was passed 263 MORE times than he passed others. That ranks in the bottom-5 of all Cup Series charters. The No. 15 Rick Ware car had a better pass differential, and they had a season full of rotating drivers and inconsistency. What’s even more baffling is how this number got so bad for Dillon in ’22, when the year prior he scored +73 in this category.
23 Lead Lap Finishes in 2022 – Tied for 17th among all Cup Series charters, Austin Dillon finished on the lead lap 23 times in 2022. Despite career-high DNFs (6), when his car was still working by the end of a race, he more often than not was finishing on the lead lap. That’s certainly a number to be proud of, especially in the equipment that RCR gives him, which is admittedly not in the top tier of teams. Finishing on the lead lap may not sound all that important, but it is a good predictor of decent finishes – which is what everyone is after!
Austin Dillon may be returning to Richard Childress Racing in 2023, but the team is going to look a whole lot different this upcoming season. With his previous teammate Tyler Reddick moving on to 23XI Racing, and Kyle Busch’s well-documented departure from Joe Gibbs Racing, Austin Dillon’s No. 3 will be paired with a new No. 8 in Busch. From a strictly competitive standpoint, Kyle Busch will likely bring a new flavour to the team that could help both Dillon and RCR as a whole. They’re definitely a team to watch in 2023.
Coming up next in the Countdown to Daytona series – Daniel Suarez!
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