- Bob Pockrass, NASCAR
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The photos of the Austin Dillon car smashing into the Daytona International Speedway catch fence and careening upside down across the Daytona International Speedway surface were unsettling.
Many of those photos showed Dillon's car number, the slanted No. 3 made famous by Dale Earnhardt, who died in an accident on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
When Dillon, the grandson of team owner Richard Childress, took the same-looking No. 3 back to Sprint Cup racing in 2014, many celebrated it as a way to honor the history of the number and a nod to the Earnhardt legacy.
"I haven't talked to a lot of people [at RCR] about that," Dillon said Tuesday morning. "I had a few different questions about it, but the way I look at it is I think from what I've learned from those crashes.
"For instance, what happened to Dale, our sport has taken a whole turn of 360 degrees, and it's all about safety, and we've been able to learn from our mistakes in the past, and that's what you have to do."
Childress radioed to Dillon after the accident, but Dillon couldn't communicate back to him because of damage to the radio cord in the accident. It wasn't until the crewmen from the teams of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears got to Dillon and held their thumbs up that Childress knew his grandson was OK.
"They were saying, 'Talk to me, buddy, talk to me,' and I couldn't respond to them, so that was a time for them I'm sure it was just painful because they didn't know how good I was," Dillon said.
Dillon didn't even realize how bad the accident was until he talked to his brother, Ty, on the phone.
"He's a tough guy, and to hear him be upset about it and worried about me, it was like, all right, I need to look at this wreck," Austin Dillon said. "I did, and you can see where a guy watching it from home not knowing how I was and the pit crew kind of running out to the car, it was pretty dramatic right there for 30 seconds, 38 seconds or so."
Dillon went to the RCR shop Monday and one of the first people he talked to was his interior guy -- the employee responsible for making sure Dillon's seat and other safety components are installed properly in the car. Beyond a sore groin and a sore tailbone, Dillon said he feels fine. He has not suffered any headaches and is prepared to get in the car Wednesday for testing at Kentucky Speedway.
"I talked to my interior guy that kind of bolts everything in," Dillon said. "I think that's probably one of the worst fears for a guy that does interior is the safety of the driver. It's what his main focus is, and I went and thanked him this morning as soon as I got here for keeping all the bolts tight, doing his job."