Austin Dillon's pinch-me moment

***

"Hey, appreciate it," Dillon said.

"You're lucky we bottomed out a little bit," grinned Truex, who half-jokingly said he was relieved not to have knocked Dillon from the pole for fear of incurring the wrath of the team.

Dillon and RCR have mostly avoided the wrath of fans because Dillon has been successful at every rung of his journey to Sunday. He won rookie of the year awards and championships the following year in both the Truck and Nationwide series before graduating to Sprint Cup this season. Though the smallish crowd in attendance on Sunday -- several adorned in vintage black Earnhardt apparel -- seemed ambivalent to Dillon in comparison to the outpouring to Childress and the race car. But there were no catcalls.

"I think it's probably been the reason the fans have allowed it to happen," Mike Dillon said of his son's resume. "I think the fans are the reason we got the 3 back, and for him to be able to win races and be competitive, they've allowed it to happen."

Austin Dillon grew up, with his younger brother and Nationwide rookie, Ty, steeped in the heritage of a family number more emotionally connected by fans to Earnhardt. And while bringing the stylized digit -- with which Earnhardt won six championships at RCR -- back to Sprint Cup has been a dream for Dillon, he has been able to remove -- or at least conceal -- the emotion his elders at RCR are experiencing with greater frequency at each milestone this Speedweeks.

"Every day you drive onto our complex, you see Richard's 3 and you see the heritage of that 3 there, so to be able to be a part of this, it's a dream come true for me," crew chief Gil Martin said, "and I know it is for everybody in our whole team and our whole organization because I've watched Austin come from being a little guy to where he's at today, and it's been an amazing journey to watch."

And so it continues.

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