Austin Dillon will enter his seventh fulltime season when the Daytona 500 fires off on February 16, 2020 and after winning the 60th running of the Daytona 500 in 2018, that is a course near and dear to his heart.
Unfortunately, in the 71 races that have followed, he has earned only one more top-five.
In part because of his strong showing in the 2018 Daytona 500 – and the resulting placement in the playoffs that season – we got a little overly enthusiastic about his 2019 odds and ranked him 17th in 2019. Dillon was not able to live up to those expectations and finished 21st in the points’ standings last year.
Dillon was not terrible during the year. While he did not earn a top-five in 2019, he came close on two occasions with sixth-place results at Richmond in the spring and Talladega in the fall. He was also consistent: In total, 14 of his 36 races ended in results of sixth through 14th – and all of those were lead lap results. And consistency if one of the bulwarks of fantasy NASCAR.
Dillon had three poles during the year – leading the field to green at Auto Club, Chicagoland, and Talladega 1; he finished among the top 15 in each of those races, so fantasy owners who found a comfortable rhythm of when to start him were rewarded with a solid differentiator to the standard lineup.
Unfortunately Dillon was also a little crash-prone in 2019. He finished outside the top 25 in eight races. Three of these were DNFs because of accidents; another four were the result of damage to his car that seriously impacted his its performance.
One of the stats we have included for the past few years is a list of a driver’s best tracks. Entering the 2019 season, Dillon counted Darlington, Daytona, and Auto Club as his best courses. While Daytona stats are always tricky and prone to change in the blink of an eye with a 'Big One' crash, Dillon continued to contribute to his success on the other two courses.
Dillon entered 2019 with an average finish of 13.0 at Darlington, finished 10th, and improved that average to 12.5. He entered Auto Club with a 14.4, finished 10th, and improved to 13.7. Those are two tracks fantasy players want to bookmark for possible inclusion in 2020.
Who knows, given the remarkable Cinderella performance by Erik Jones in last year’s Southern 500, Dillon could knock off another of NASCAR’s Crown Jewels after winning both the Daytona 500 and Coke 600 in the past three seasons.
This year the addition of Tyler Reddick should also positively impact the organization’s performance as the bar will be raised with one of the best rookie classes we’ve seen in several years.
Three Best Tracks
Darlington (12.5 in 6 attempts)
Homestead (13.5 in 6)
Auto Club (13.7 in 6)
Three Worst Tracks
Charlotte Roval (31.0 in 2)
Watkins Glen (27.8 in 6)
Atlanta (22.9 in 7)
Victories: None (Best finish = sixth, Richmond 1 and Talladega 2)
Top-fives: 0 (.000)
Top-10s: 6 (.167)
Top-15s: 14 (.389)
2019 Finishes at or above rank = 26 (72.2%)