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How Much Have the Dillon Brothers Held Back RCR?

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Joshua Lipowski

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When people look at Richard Childress Racing’s general decline in performance over the last decade-plus, many people find it easy to point a bony finger at both Austin and Ty Dillon. Both are the grandsons of team owner, Richard Childress, and many criticize the brothers because some claim the brothers are “Silver Spoon kids”. Well, is that actually valid, and how much have the Dillon brothers held back RCR through the years?

The Dillon Brothers Working Their Way Up: 2010-2014

Throughout the early 2010s, the Dillon brothers first burst onto the NASCAR scene. Wherever Austin went, Ty was right behind him. From 2010 to 2011, both of the Dillon brothers wowed in the Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series.

Austin won four races over those two years including the 2011 Truck Series Championship over series veteran Johnny Sauter. Ty dominated the ARCA Menards Series with nine wins in 22 starts and the 2011 series Championship over current Cup Series star, Chris Buescher. The two moved up in 2012 with Austin in Xfinity and Ty in Trucks.

Austin won two races in 2012 and the 2013 Xfinity Series Championship over former IndyCar Champion and 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner, Sam Hornish Jr. This came despite Austin not winning a race in 2013. Ty, meanwhile, narrowly missed out on the 2013 Truck Series Championship while winning three races over two seasons.

In 2014, Austin moved up to Cup in the 3 car, which was the first time the 3 car came back to the track in the Cup Series since Dale Earnhardt passed away. Ty won his first career Xfinity Series race in 2014 as well.

Despite many complaining that Austin and Ty were gifted rides higher up the food chain just because of their family connections, performance says they earned it. Austin literally won an Xfinity and Truck Series Championship, and it’s hard to deny him a Cup Series opportunity based on that performance. Ty won races in the lower series, which is exactly what you need to do to get rides higher up the food chain. However, RCR has also gone on a decline in performance in recent years.

RCR’s Decline in Performance

In 2013, Kevin Harvick won four races and finished third in the points standings for RCR, but he left in 2014. He did not exactly leave on great terms, and that came to a head after an incident at Martinsville with Ty Dillon where Harvick said Ty and Austin, “Had everything fed to them with a spoon” amongst other things.

Whether or not that comment is totally fair is to be debated, but it does provide an interesting metaphor for what happened to RCR. Harvick left after 2013, and RCR’s performance went down. The team failed to win a race in 2014, but Ryan Newman nearly won the Championship thanks to a…chaotic…Championship format.

Since then, no RCR team has finished in the top 10 in driver’s points. Race wins were fairly rare as well and no one won multiple races with the team until 2022. In 2020, Tyler Reddick joined the team, and he won three races in 2022 before jumping ship for 23XI Racing. In 2023, Kyle Busch joined the team, and he won three races as well. As for Austin Dillon…

Austin Dillon’s Cup Series Performance

Now, let’s time-travel back to the beginning of Austin’s career. He was less than stellar in his first two seasons in the Cup Series, but he broke out in 2016 with his first Playoff appearance. He narrowly missed out on the Round of 8.

Since then, he has won four races, which has allowed him to qualify for the Playoffs five times overall in his career. Now, those wins have all come under rather interesting circumstances. He won on fuel mileage in the 2017 Coca-Cola 600, turning Aric Almirola on the last lap of the 2018 Daytona 500, a perfectly timed caution at Texas in 2020, and avoiding the huge one during a pop-up rainstorm in the 2022 Coke Zero Sugar 400.

He has won races, but, they have not necessarily come based on pure driving merit. However, it’s hard to say a four-time Cup Series winner does not deserve a ride somewhere in the series. He did put himself in a position to take advantage of these opportunities after all.

However, when partnered with talented drivers such as Kyle Busch and Tyler Reddick, it becomes obvious that Dillon has a ceiling. Is it enough of a ceiling that it holds back RCR as a company fully? It’s tough to say that based on performance alone, but it can be argued that Austin being there takes a seat away from another younger driver.

Sheldon Creed recently left the organization’s Xfinity Series team, and Austin Hill is still in Xfinity despite winning races. If Dillon is not in the picture, do other young drivers look at RCR more seriously because a Cup ride is more open?

Ty Dillon’s Cup Series Performance

Ty Dillon has struggled throughout his time in the Cup Series, however, Ty cannot be totally blamed for holding back RCR for one simple reason. He has not driven for the team full-time at any point in his Cup Series career. Yes, he drove for Germain Racing between 2017 and 2020, which was an RCR-affiliate team, but he’s not driven for RCR proper full-time in the Cup Series.

It’s unfair to blame Ty at least currently solely because of him not being with the team. Now, one could argue that he was clogging up the Xfinity Series, but he finished in the top 5 in points each full-time season in Xfinity. Now, maybe Dillon has held back RCR from bringing up prospects, but guys like Daniel Hemric and Tyler Reddick still made their way up the pipeline.

Do the Dillon Brothers Hold Back RCR?

It’s fair to say that Austin particularly may not get the most out of RCR equipment but to say the Dillon brothers are the only reason RCR declined in performance may be unfair. Again, Ty has never driven full-time for RCR in the Cup Series. When the two drivers were in the lower series, they were far from bad drivers, and they showed why they should be given a chance in the Cup Series.

However, if they are not getting the most out of their equipment, then it is hard to say they are helping as much as another driver could. Then again, maybe they receive more hate than they deserve.

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Picture of Joshua Lipowski

Joshua Lipowski

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