As a kid, there was one place Ty Dillon could be found toddling along with his grandfather, the legendary driver Richard Childress—the racetrack.
But Childress was hardly the only driver in the family. In fact, Ty grew up going to the track with his grandfather to watch his father, Mike Dillon, who made a combined 158 starts in the three NASCAR series.
“I loved seeing how much my grandfather loved it and how involved he was,” Ty says of Childress. “We watched my dad race—I was his biggest fan.”
When Ty makes his first Talladega Cup start for the GEICO 500 on May 7, he’ll be following in the footsteps of his grandfather who changed racing history at the speedway roughly 50 years earlier.
Childress got his chance to run a Cup race when drivers in the Grand National Series went on strike the day before Talladega’s inaugural race in 1969. The track’s owner, Bill France Sr., wasn’t about to let his dream die. So he recruited replacement drivers—including Childress who had competed the day before in a smaller companion event at the 2.66-mile venue.
After his first run at Talladega, Childress earned enough money to build his own race shop. He went on to have a hugely successful career and now owns his own team, Richard Childress Racing, which, to date, has accumulated a total of 17 championships and more than 200 wins. In addition, he is Talladega’s all-time winning team owner with 12 triumphs.
This year, Ty will carry on the family legacy by driving the No. 13 Chevrolet—the same number his grandfather used in his first Cup start at Talladega. (His older brother, Austin, drives the No. 3 car for their grandfather’s team.)
Before Ty was eligible for a driver’s license, he says he knew the racing bug had bit him too. “When I was 13, after running my first test in a Bandolero car in Charlotte, I was hooked,” he says. “I knew racing was something I would never stop doing until I was the best at it.”
Childress is a legend in the racing world, and Ty’s dad is the senior vice president of business operations for RCR. But when it comes to advice from them, Ty says they have words of wisdom about everything that goes on at the track—and away from it. “I get advice from them every day,” he says.
Ty got his first shot at Talladega a year ago in the GEICO 500 when he was a relief driver filling in for Tony Stewart, who started the race, but climbed out from behind the wheel after the first caution period. “I was honored to fill in and I was eager for the opportunity,” he says. Then, he was happy just to get a good finish (sixth) for Stewart. Now? It’s his turn to carry on the family legacy that began decades earlier.
“A win at Talladega would mean a lot to me, just given the great history my family has with the track,” he says. “It would also mean so much more to me because it would be my first Cup Series win. I can’t think of any place better to experience that first victory. I’d also view a successful career as winning multiple championships.”
Ultimate Saturdays: On the Road with Ty Dillon