Going into the Easter break, Kyle Larson leads Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year standings after earning three Top-10s in the last four races – including a runner-up at Fontana.
So has Dillon, who entered the season with the most controversy of any NASCAR rookie thanks to his and car owner Richard Childress’ revival of the famous No. 3, become the forgotten young gun?
While Larson has certainly had the more eye-popping moments in their duel for Cup ROTY honors, Dillon is doing the No. 1 job of any rookie and that’s logging laps and getting the car home in one piece.
Dillon has just one Top-10 (a ninth in the season-opening Daytona 500) to Larson’s four, but has earned six finishes inside the Top 20 and has no DNFs.
Larson’s been more up-and-down, with finishes of 38th at Daytona and 27th at Martinsville; additionally, before claiming his first Top 10 at Bristol, his best finish in the first three races was a 19th at Las Vegas.
As a result, Dillon sits 10th in the overall Sprint Cup championship, while Larson’s a bit farther back at 15th.
Dillon’s 11th-place showing at Darlington was, strangely enough, his third 11th-place finish of the season. So it’s not as if he’s that far off from Larson in regards to the more attention-grabbing results.
“We’re certainly on the cusp of finishing within the top-10,” he said on Saturday night. “We’ll take it. We worked hard tonight and I’m learning each week.
“I can’t wait to come to Darlington Raceway, and all of these tracks on the schedule, for the second and third times. We will be a very tough team the second half of this season.”
We’ll see if he’s right. He – and Larson – would be in the Chase Grid if the Sprint Cup regular season started today.