NASCAR is more than just a multi-billion dollar sport. It’s a family. Everybody knows everybody and there are second, third and even fourth generation racers carrying on the tradition of those who came before them. Even with crew guys, it seems like everybody is a cousin, nephew or brother-in-law of somebody. Nearly half the drivers in the field have fathers, uncles or grandparents that once raced themselves. The family aspect of NASCAR was no more apparent than in Preseason Thunder this past week.
Austin Dillon, grandson of six-time championship winning car owner Richard Childress, came to Daytona last week showcasing a number on his door that hasn’t been seen in Cup since 2001. It was the black No. 3 which was made famous by his childhood hero and close family friend, Dale Earnhardt. His father, Mike Dillon, used to race as well and is the current general manager of Richard Childress Racing. His brother, Ty Dillon, is the 2011 ARCA champion and the 2013 Camping World Truck Series runner-up. He’ll be driving what was Austin’s Nationwide car full-time in 2014.
When the Nationwide cars took to the speedway, Chase Elliott led the way in his first chance behind the wheel of a car in NASCAR’s secondary series. His car owner is Dale Earnhardt Jr., and the irony in that can not be understated. Chase’s father and Jr.’s father were engaged in an epic rivalry in the late 1980s that nearly came to blows on a couple occasions between the two legends. Oh, and guess who was directly behind Chase on the speed charts? His father and 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, Bill Elliott.
In the trucks, Jeb Burton and Ryan Blaney took part in testing. Those last names may seem very familiar to race fans and they should. Ryan’s father happens to be legendary dirt track ace, Dave Blaney. Along with the 1984 USAC Silver Crown title and the 1995 World of Outlaws championship, Dave has won at the Nationwide level and is a veteran of the Sprint Cup Series. As for Jeb, his father, Ward Burton, holds one of those coveted Harley J. Earl trophies after emerging triumphant in the 2002 Daytona 500. Jeb’s uncle, Jeff Burton, has over 20 wins at the Cup level and currently drives on a part-time basis for Michael Waltrip Racing.
We can’t forget fourth generation racer Jeffrey Earnhardt who just landed a full-time ride for JD Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. John-Hunter Nemechek recently announced that he will run 10 races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2014. His father, Joe Nemechck is the 1992 Nationwide champion and has four Sprint Cup wins to his credit. He was named after his uncle, John Nemechek, who was tragically killed in a racing crash three months before he was born.
These are just a few of the many second, third and even fourth generation racers coming up through the ranks. Jared Irvan, Justin Allison, the 12-year-old granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt, Karsyn Elledge and dozens more are all pursuing racing glory just like their fathers, uncles and grandfathers once did.
Nick DeGroot is a Contributing Writer For Rant Sports NASCAR. Connect With Him on Twitter @ndegroot89