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From Baseball Diamonds to Super Speedways: Former Little League Baseball World Series Participant Gearing Up for Run at NASCAR Glory

From Baseball Diamonds to Super Speedways: Former Little League Baseball World Series Participant Gearing Up for Run at NASCAR Glory

DillonHS_152px Austin Dillon - Photo courtesy of Team Dillon Racing

The summer of 2002 was no different than any other summer for most of us, but for Austin Dillon those few months were uniquely memorable. At 12 years old, the NASCAR driver did not have his sights set on the finish line. Instead, he was intent on driving his Forsyth County (N.C.) team to the Little League Baseball World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.

“It was neat for our family to be on TV for something outside of racing,” said Austin, who is the grandson of Richard Childress, one of the most prominent and recognized names in motorsports. “It was really cool to have my grandpa here. The whole thing was pretty special for us as a family.”

Austin’s fondest World Series memories include getting off of the bus, walking around the Little League International Complex and carrying the flag during the opening ceremonies. The one thing that really stuck with him was the camaraderie between the teams and the players, and how close he and his teammates became during their journey to the Little League Baseball World Series.

At the World Series, Austin finished 1-for-4 at the plate in three games. The Southeast Region Champions finished the World Series Tournament 0-3. A link to the 2002 Southeast Region Champions team photo is available here: http://www.littleleague.org/series/2002divisions/llbb/teams/ussoutheast/team.htm

After his appearance in South Williamsport, Austin played Junior Varsity baseball at his high school for most of his freshman and sophomore years, but his interests were shifting gears into racing.

While racing became his focus, Austin did not forget the lessons he learned during his Little League days.

“John Scott, my Little League coach was really persistent with us and kept us on a consistent schedule and taught us the importance of working as a team,” Austin said.

Austin Dillon’s 2002 Little League Baseball World Series photo

Teamwork is something that is still of the utmost importance to Austin as he works his way up through the racing ranks. As a member of the Richard Childress Development Program, Austin has had to prove himself in many different racing series. From Bandoleros and Legends in 2005 and 2006, to the Late Model class where he won the Goodyear Fastrack Challenge race at The Dirt Track at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 2007, to winning the Fast track Pro Late Model Nationals in 2008.

Later in 2008, Austin finished seventh in his first Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) start at Rockingham (S.C.), took Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Camping World East Series, finishing second in the Series points standings, and crossed the finish line in fourth place at Memphis, in his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

Even though he’s still at the beginning of his racing career, Austin has some good advice for young athletes, regardless of their sport.

“Follow whatever you want to do and don’t give up,” Austin said. “Put your whole heart into it, because it you don’t have heart, you’ll never succeed. If something doesn’t go your way, surround yourself with good people that can pull you up and help you keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation that you’re in.”

Austin admits that his long-term goal in racing is to be competitive and successful in the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR’s Major League, and maybe someday become a team owner. Right now, he is busy balancing his racing schedule with his college schedule.

“My family really pushed me to go to school and told me early on that I would be going to college,” Austin said. “At first, I didn’t really like the idea of going to college. But now, I really like it and I’m glad that I have the opportunity to experience it.”

As a student at High Point (N.C.) University, Austin is studying Communications with his focus on Public Relations and Sports Management.

Photo courtesy of Team Dillon Racing