Last week it was announced that Ty Dillon would be joining Gaunt Brothers Racing to attempt to make this year’s Daytona 500. My initial thoughts were that this could be a great opportunity for Dillon. After all, we all know any opportunity can lead to another, and any opportunity in NASCAR to race in the Daytona 500 is huge. We all know anyone has a chance at Daytona. I’m also a big fan of the “little guy”. Gaunt Brothers Racing is absolutely that. They’re a Toyota team with no factory support. Daniel Suarez drove for Gaunt Brothers Racing last season and you may remember that they failed to qualify for the Daytona 500. They did qualify and compete in the remaining 35 races last year. This season the team is looking to take a step back. Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press has reported they're looking to run 10 races this season. I’m hopeful that means that Ty Dillon can make the most of Daytona and drive however many races Gaunt Brothers Racing is able to run.
This week it was announced that Dillon would be driving a partial schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series Beginning with the season opener at Daytona This is without a doubt a huge opportunity for Dillon. No matter anyone's opinions on the Gibbs stable there's no denying they have top equipment that can provide opportunities other teams simply can't. The problem is Joe Gibbs Racing has a log jam at the Cup Series level You have two Cup Series Champions and a 3 time Daytona 500 winner. Not to mention Christopher Bell who will be in his first full season in a Gibbs Car after satellite team Levine Family Racing shut down. You have to imagine he'll be given a lot of leeways to get his feet wet. There's absolutely nothing wrong with an Xfinity ride and it could always turn into more down the road.
However, I can’t shake the belief that Ty Dillon deserves better. Dillon has driven full-time for Germain Racing since 2017. After Geico insurance announced their departure from the team, on top of the strain that the pandemic has put on every team, but especially small ones like Germain, they closed up shop. We saw numerous openings pop up during silly season. Richard Petty Motorsports passed on him, as did Chip Ganassi and countless others. I can’t help but wonder why? Perhaps most baffling of all is the fact that his grandfather, Richard Childress hasn’t done much to help his grandson’s prospects. All the while he has done everything to protect and ensure that Austin Dillon is the face of Richard Childress Racing. You could make an argument that up until 2020 that protection wasn’t deserved. How much success did he really have? Yes, he did win the 2018 Daytona 500 and that can never be taken from him. In this sport, Daytona is forever, just ask Trevor Bayne. He did also win at Charlotte in 2017. Once you get past that his results are simply just respectable. Don’t get me wrong, there are many drivers who like to have the success that Austin Dillon has had. However, his all to safe position sure seems to be due to some level of nepotism. I’m not trying to suggest that Austin Dillon isn’t talented. He absolutely is. I’m not even trying to suggest that he doesn’t belong at the Cup level.
What I am trying to suggest is if he wasn’t the grandson of the owner of the team he would be under far more pressure to perform. Don’t believe me? How’d Daniel Hemric’s time at RCR work out? He was cut loose after just one season, his rookie year. I’m sure you’re sitting here reading this thinking something along the lines of “well Tyler Reddick needed a spot” Fair enough. How about Ryan Newman? He never finished lower than 18th in the standings during his tenure at RCR. Perhaps more importantly he finished 2nd in the standings in 2014, his first season at RCR. That’s something Austin Dillon hasn’t done. Once Newman left RCR why wasn’t Ty Dillon at the top of his grandfather’s list? Perhaps he was, but that doesn’t seem likely. It would have been a natural fit. Let’s not forget Germain Racing had a technical alliance with RCR. It’s always possible that Ty Dillon doesn’t want his grandfather’s help and doesn’t want to appear to only have a spot due to nepotism. If so, that is certainly commendable.
No matter what, on the surface, it looks like Richard Childress has spent more time
paying tribute to the legacy of Dale Earnhardt Sr then he has helped his other grandson in his NASCAR career in recent years. Before you think I’m suggesting something that I’m not, let me make it abundantly clear that I’m not discussing this on a personal level. I’m discussing this strictly in terms of business. I’m sure Richard Childress loves Ty more than words can express. However, when your grandfather is the owner of a NASCAR team and you’re staring down the barrel of a part-time season for a team that isn’t even the manufacturer of your grandfather’s team I think it's fair to wonder why. I'm aware that Richard financed Ty's career in the Truck and Xfinity Series but it is at least on the surface odd that in recent years he doesn't get the same type of financial favor that his brother does. Deep down we all probably know why. Sponsorship. Nothing happens in this sport without it. I think that it’s a major issue the sport faces. Think about some of the names we’ve seen go by the wayside because of it. Matt Kenseth comes to mind. He was shown the door by Joe Gibbs Racing and DeWalt in favor of Erik Jones. Yet Matt Kenseth had helped bring DeWalt to Gibbs. Michael Waltrip was essentially pushed aside for, at the time, a young and unproven Chase Elliott. The list could go on and on. Here we are again with Ty Dillon. I’ll never understand why guys like him are given one chance and if something happens that’s out of their control, they often have trouble ever finding their footing again. Ty won races for his grandfather on the Truck and Xfinity Series. He won stages for Germain Racing and often outperformed expectations. Look no further than when he had an average finish of 20th during the 2017 season.
Make no mistake, Ty Dillion has a great opportunity at Gaunt Brothers Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series. Frankly, it's an opportunity that countless drivers would love. Again, I hope it turns into more for him. Nonetheless, I will always wonder how many careers have to get prematurely ended or derailed before there’s a better effort by the sport to ensure guys that deserve opportunities. Ty Dillon was one of, if not the first driver to support Bubba Wallace’s social stances last season, He had public conversations with Wallace about race in America. Why isn’t corporate America giving this young man a chance? If moral character matters, sponsors should start acting like it. Kyle Larson was welcomed back by sponsors. I believe it’s a well deserved second chance. However, so many are still waiting on that first real opportunity in this sport. Ty Dillon, like so many others, deserves better. Hopefully, Daytona is the start of him getting it.
It's not insanity... It's Loganity!