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Dale Earnhardt is synonymous with Richard Childress Racing. Dale Jr. is not. But the latter is well-versed in the storied history of the organization and his father’s many contributions to its success. 

This week, on his popular Dale Jr. Download podcast, Junior wasn’t looking at the past but toward the future of RCR. He revealed his interesting thoughts on what that might look like, including the replacement of driver Austin Dillon

Dale Earnhardt started Richard Childress Racing on winning path

Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress
Driver Dale Earnhardt (L) and car owner Richard Childress teamed up on the NASCAR Cup circuit from 1984 through 2001, winning 67 Cup races and six Cup championships together. | ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Richard Childress has been involved with NASCAR since his driving days in the 1970s. It was in the ’80s when his name rose to prominence, with Dale Earnhardt beginning his stretch of winning six Cup Series championships in nine seasons driving the No. 3 car. 

While the 2001 Daytona 500 was incredibly tragic with the shocking loss of one of the sport’s greatest drivers, looking back on it years later, it produced an opportunity. And Kevin Harvick seized it. He drove that opportunity to 23 wins in nine seasons at RCR, including the 2007 Daytona 500. 

Austin Dillon, the business namesake’s grandson, took over when Harvick left for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014. The youngster impressed early on in that rookie year, winning the pole at the Daytona 500 and finishing ninth in the race. He stayed out of trouble that season with zero DNFs but didn’t run up front, with four top 10s and a single top 5. He finished behind Kyle Larson in Rookie of the Year voting.

Now, nearing the end of his 10th season, the 33-year-old has recorded a total of 75 top 10s, 22 top 5s, and four victories, two of them at Daytona, including the 2018 500.   

Dale Earnhardt Jr. predicts future RCR without Austin Dillon driving

Since the introduction of the Next Gen car in 2022, Austin Dillon has struggled. How bad? Remember that rookie season and how he stayed clean without any DNFs? He’s remained consistent in that category throughout his career. 

Before the Next Gen car, the most DNFs he had suffered in a season was five in 2017. Last year, the first with the new car, he recorded eight. Unfortunately, this year, he has already surpassed that low-water mark with 10 and has two races remaining. 

While Dillon is 33 and conceivably has a few more wins in him, Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on his podcast that he believes the driver should prep an exit strategy because there’s a new driver ready to come in and take his place. His name is Austin Hill, and he was this week’s guest on the DJD. Earnhardt Jr. said the following:

Great conversation with Austin [Hill]. Curious to see what he can do in the Cup Series. I don’t know when he’ll get there. I didn’t want to say this in front of him, and it would be tough to say in front of Austin Dillon as well.

My opinion on all of that — and I think you may share this — is that Austin Dillon has absolutely got plenty of racing years in front of him if he wanted to continue to compete. But in my mind if I was Austin, I would be looking for the exit ramp. 

If this is possible, if there’s a path for Austin Dillon to become the face of RCR in the same vein that Richard Childress is the face of that organization, I would be looking for that exit ramp if I was Austin. And saying, ‘Hey man, I want to get into the business side of our organization as soon and fast as possible, right?’ To be able to exactly understand how this thing needs to run. 

Now, there’s a person in the middle there, Mike Dillon, Austin’s dad, that probably also wants some influence there. But I think that he would make way for his son Austin Dillon to sort of take over the reins. Richard’s not going to be around forever. 

And I know Austin is probably already doing this. But somebody needs to sort of preparing themselves to continue RCR and whatever it is beyond Richard Childress. While I think Austin has plenty of great years racing cars, they’ve got a great little race car driver right that could take over that Cup car for Richard and Austin. 

It’ll be interesting. I think that that’s in play. Not sure exactly what the timeline is, but I believe that’s sort of the possible direction. I’ll be curious to see really what the timeline is. How quickly that happens. 

dale earnhardt jr.

Why Austin Hill replacing Austin Dillon makes sense

While some might suggest Earnhardt is just speculating, his remarks indicate he knows something more, which wouldn’t be a surprise considering how connected he is with the sport. Junior expects Austin Dillon to step away and Austin Hill to replace him. He’s just unsure of the timeline. 

Dillon moving away from the track and to the front office, making decisions for the organization, might sound ridiculous to some. It didn’t to Kyle Busch.

It’s been well-documented how the No. 3 driver made the first call to the two-time champion last year about possibly leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and joining RCR. Dillon’s remarks at the time also lend credence to what Earnhardt is now proposing.

“I think if anything, everybody knows where my heart is, and that’s for RCR to succeed and whatever it takes,” he told Fox’s Bob Pockrass.

Whatever it takes. Now, it’s a matter of whenever it happens. 

To stay up to date on the latest happenings in NASCAR, including breaking stories you can’t find anywhere else, follow Kyle on YouTube and Twitter.