The 2016 NASCAR season will be here soon, and Athlon Sports is helping you prep for the season with a scouting report and fantasy preview for each of the top 16 drivers. The Athlon Sports 2016 Racing Preview, available on newsstands now, includes previews and stats for every driver and every track.
Austin Dillon checks in at No. 16 in our countdown. Here’s what his season could look like on the track and on your fantasy team:
“Austin grew up a bit late last season, finally showing that he belongs in Sprint Cup,” an industry insider says. “His is an interesting situation. On one hand, he’s often criticized for being given too much too fast — supposedly because his grandfather, Richard Childress, also happens to be his car owner at Richard Childress Racing. On the other hand, it could be argued that because of his connection to his grandfather, he’s sometimes been subject to unfair, unwarranted criticism that has stunted his growth as a Sprint Cup driver.
“The bottom line, when it’s all said and done, is the end result on the track. And in 2015, Dillon at least showed some flashes that he belongs. Now it’s time for him to prove he can take the next step and start truly contending for wins and be one of the 16 drivers to make the 2016 Chase. This might be the year he supplants Ryan Newman as the most productive Cup driver at RCR.”
Beach bum: Yes, Dillon finished Daytona in July with his car in 1,000 pieces after a scary incident that left several drivers initially thinking the driver was seriously hurt (or worse). But Dillon emerged with a seventh-place result that was his third career top 10 at that Cup track in five starts. Add a pole for the 2014 Daytona 500, and it’s one of the few places where the third-year driver feels comfortable in a Cup car.
Michigan Man: Dillon has just one career top 5 at Michigan, a fourth, but that did come last August, and it’s clear he’s improving there. Seven starts total at the two-mile oval are a career high for him at any track; experience should help him in 2016.
Still Learning: Dillon ranked just 23rd in the “Fastest on Restarts” statistic, leaving him susceptible to being passed late. He also dropped from a 17.0 average start to a 21.0 average finish, a minus-4 gap that never leaves you feeling good.