The Austin Dillon Problem

Austin Dillon

Gil Martin was a dutiful strategist, a commander of mistake-free race teams and the 2013 Motorsports Analytics Crew Chief of the Year after helping guide Kevin Harvick and a turbulent No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team, the predecessor to the new-school No. 3, to its third third-place points finish in four years.

Richard “Slugger” Labbe was a rulebook provocateur, yes, but a crew chief that habitually short and long-pitted his driver to an effective record — 83.33 percent position retention on green-flag pit cycles for a total of 19 positions gained this season — which is the kind of thing a good crew chief does when his cars don’t have worthwhile speed and his driver can’t be trusted to seize track position.

In short, these weren’t exactly two bad crew chiefs that Austin Dillon burned through. Labbe and RCR parted ways on Monday morning, making him the second team leader Dillon has exiled in two years.

Richard Childress isn’t going to fire his grandson. As long as Dillon is the driver of the organization’s flagship No. 3, the crew chief is going to be under incredible scrutiny until an inevitable end. While the goal is clear — make this team as fast and competitive as possible — no crew chief is going to completely right this ship because the driver isn’t, and likely will never be, above average.

Dillon’s career statistics support the prospect of permanent mediocrity … Read More

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