Austin Dillon isn't exclaiming about his start to the 2014 season, but he's not disappointed in it either.
After finishing 19th at Kansas on Saturday night, Dillon, a rookie, is 14th in the standings. That's ahead of Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, and Kurt Busch.
"It’s been a solid start to the year," Dillon told Yahoo Sports last week. "I wish we were doing better, and there are some places I wish we would have had better runs. But overall, I’m going to give us a B-, C+, B-. We’ve got a lot of improvement to do but for a rookie, I think we’ve done a solid job of not tearing up a bunch of stuff and racing the whole race."
The consistency is what's helped Dillon be in the top 15. He's completed the second-most laps in the Sprint Cup Series, four fewer than his teammate Ryan Newman.
Dillon's only top 10 this season came at the Daytona 500, where he finished ninth after starting on the pole. Though his best result might have been his most infamous race of the season; he was involved in three separate incidents, including one where Newman went spinning into the wall off his bumper.
Since then, it's been a lot of top 20 finishes. Yeah, it's not spectacular by any means, but it's not the worst thing in the world, especially for a driver in his first full season. That steadiness has helped quiet much of the preseason storylines about Dillon's 2014 season.
Before the year, and especially at Daytona, where he got the pole at the track that helped build the legend of Dale Earnhardt, much of the focus was on the return of Earnhardt's famed No. 3 to the track with Dillon behind the wheel. Now, it's about the racing.
"Our performance hasn’t been terrible or great, it’s been in the middle," Dillon said. "It’s nice, the media was great at Daytona, we took every bit of it we could, and now it’s nice to be able to focus on racing."
Dillon said his biggest adjustment to the Cup Series has been racing against an entire field of Cup drivers. While winning the Nationwide Series title last season, he was battling for top-five finishes with drivers from NASCAR's top level on a weekly basis. But not at the back of the field.
"I think there’s less of them in the Nationwide Series so you stack up differently when you’re out there," Dillon said. "In the Cup Series, everybody has got the same equipment, everybody’s in the same stuff so everybody races each other hard.
"And learning who to race and what not to race is the hardest thing. Because there are some guys that race you really clean and some guys that just want to race the dog crap out of you every lap."
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