Austin Dillon, Daytona 500 pole winner, navigates ESPN’s “Car Wash”

NASCAR driver Austin Dillon prepares for his NASCAR Now debut (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
NASCAR driver Austin Dillon (center) prepared for his NASCAR Now appearance on Tuesday.
(Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

During one segment of SportsCenter anchor Lindsay Czarniak’s interview with NASCAR driver Austin Dillon on Tuesday, ESPN cameras captured a closeup of the 23-year-old Sprint Cup rookie’s snazzy cowboy boots.

“I try to pick out a pair of cowboy boots at the beginning of the year and wear them to every race,” Dillon said of his chocolate brown Justin boots, size 9 1/2. “It’s kind of like Tiger [Woods’] red shirt, I guess.”

If the 2013 Nationwide Series champion continues to employ his “lucky boot” strategy, the footwear he wore in ESPN’s Studio G won’t make another public appearance until Feb. 23 at the Daytona 500. Dillon visited Bristol for an ESPN “Car Wash” less than 48 hours after winning the Daytona pole, driving the fabled No. 3 Chevrolet that had been in NASCAR top echelon hibernation since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s fatal 2001 accident. Dillon reflected on his association with ESPN — which included a brief Little League World Series appearance in 2002 — with Front Row.

What feedback have you gotten from being showcased for two years in ESPN’s “Names Are Made Here” Nationwide Series marketing campaign?
The commercials have been great and definitely have helped me in my career. Nationwide has been a great sponsor of our sport, and they did a lot to promote those commercials. I’ve enjoyed working with Nationwide and ESPN.

What was it like doing the voiceovers for the commercials in which you talk about competing with a number associated with Dale Earnhardt Sr.?
It does speak from the heart. [ESPN marketing] knew where we wanted to go and the right way to bring back the Number 3, and they definitely helped me do that. I can’t thank them enough.

Do you watch ESPN telecasts of your races and do you take anything from them?
I do look back on some of the races and I record some of them. You try and see if you can learn anything. But every race changes.

What were your impressions of the ESPN “Car Wash”?
It’s a very friendly atmosphere where you can sit down and talk about sports, which I love. [SportsCenter anchor] Lindsay Czarniak was very nice and Jade McCarthy, I enjoyed working with her. Everybody had something to bring to the table and asked different questions at each interview.

Besides NASCAR, what other sports do you enjoy?
I’m a big Carolina Panthers fan. Hopefully we can sign [quarterback] Cam Newton [to a contract extension] and [free agent defense end] Greg Hardy and win the Super Bowl next year. I’d been talking to Greg a little bit but I met them for the first time at the Super Bowl [XLVIII]. I’ve thrown out the first pitch at a [San Diego] Padres game and a [Washington] Nationals game, but I’m an Atlanta Braves fan. Hopefully, I’ll get the call to [throw out the first pitch at] a Braves game.”

Tell us about your Little League World Series (aired annually on ESPN) experience.
It was 2002 and we represented a district from around Winston-Salem, N.C. I was a second baseman. We made it to Williamsport. We won the Southeast Region. We got our butts kicked when we got to Williamsport, but I guess you learn how to win and lose. We almost won a game against California and lost to the [eventual] champion.

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