Austin Dillon's rank near the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings this season hasn't been a stunning development. But the 22-year-old driver had surprises of his own in store for Fort Worth-area residents Tuesday.
Dillon made unannounced stops to Tarrant County, Texas, residents through the Meals on Wheels program using Texas Motor Speedway's Chevrolet Camaro pace car for Friday night's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300. After providing home-delivered meals to two families, his third delivery stop was at the home of Jim McElreath, a former USAC and driver who opened his garage of vintage cars and memorabilia.
"Any time you meet a guy that has so much history of racing, it's awesome," Dillon said. "I'm a big fan of the history and how it's progressed over time, but still the same core values are there."
McElreath, the 1962 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, also savored the experience.
"It was great to talk racing with Austin because he has a bright future," said McElreath, 85. "Any time I get to share my love of racing with a fellow driver, it's a good day."
The rest of Dillon's day involved deliveries to Dick and Marian Atkins, the former a retired Air Force colonel, and Rick Atkins, a former sprint car driver. The county chapter of Meals on Wheels, which began in 1973, helps more than 4,000 elderly and disabled homebound residents each year.
Dillon, the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, will be doing double duty at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth track this weekend. He'll campaign his usual ride, the No. 3 Chevrolet from Richard Childress Racing, in Friday's Nationwide event, then will jump to James Finch's No. 51 Phoenix Racing entry for Saturday's Sprint Cup Series race.
The underdog No. 51 team has used three drivers in six Sprint Cup races this season with admirable results; Phoenix Racing sits 11th in the series' car owner points after last weekend's event at Martinsville Speedway.
"The No. 51 team and James Finch have put a lot of effort into it this year, and they do every year," said Dillon, whose fifth career Sprint Cup start Saturday night will be his second effort for Finch. "I think the best thing about this year is that they've been rewarded with some great finishes. I think we can get in there this weekend at a track that I run pretty good at and have a good finish."
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