- Ed Hinton, NASCAR
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- For a driver who's just had his biggest win marred and his Nationwide points lead taken away by a NASCAR penalty, Austin Dillon was in a bubbly sort of so-what mood Thursday.
"I don't think we'll appeal any of it," Dillon said with a hybrid little chuckle -- part resignation to being nailed, part reckoning that it's no big deal.
Besides, "It was our mulligan," the 22-year-old grandson of team owner Richard Childress added.
NASCAR docked him six championship points, which dropped him from the lead in the standings to second place, behind teammate Elliott Sadler. Dillon's car was ruled too low during postrace inspection following his first Nationwide win last Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.
"Elliott had the exact same problem earlier this year at Iowa," Dillon pointed out. "So this almost brings it back to even with the points."
Dillon had an explanation for the violation, and Nationwide Series director Joe Balash didn't dispute it. But Balash said the car was too low in the rear on both sides, and that the penalty was "pretty much automatic."
The problem, Dillon said, was that a clamp failed on the right-rear "jack bolt" -- used for adjusting the weight distribution on the car -- due to vibrations at race speeds.
"We thought we had the problems fixed [after Sadler's penalty]," Dillon said, "and we just made a mistake and didn't put the new-style fix on the back of the car."
They had installed the stronger part on Sadler's car but had forgotten to make the change on Dillon's, so "I had the old clamp and it just came loose during the race," Dillon said.
"We went through tech before and after qualifying, and it was fine," he continued. "We started the race fine."
But, "Iowa and Kentucky are rough tracks," he said. "As the engineers and my crew chief said, the 'harmonics' [an engineering term for vibrations] of the track are what took it loose. But we should have had the new stuff in."
Dillon did the positive math on the standings: "We still gained points last week, so it was a good week overall. We were 11 out, came back [to two points ahead of Sadler] and now we're four out."
Sort of easy come, easy go, if you asked Austin Dillon -- who, as if to emphasize his breezy opinion, sported the new trademark cowboy hat adopted by him and his younger brother, Camping World Truck Series driver and 2011 ARCA champion Ty Dillon.
If the Dillon boys' replacement of the standard sponsor-logo cap catches on, garage-area fashion could become a throwback to NASCAR's classic era when cowboy hats were standard for the likes of Cale Yarborough, Richard Petty and even Dale Earnhardt for a while.
But wouldn't you know, the Dillons have found a way to make their style profitable.
"We've built a relationship with Charlie 1 Horse, the hat company," Austin Dillon said. "It's just cool. It's different."
Did the two youngsters and the hat company think of reviving a decades-faded NASCAR tradition?
"Maybe," Austin said. "But I think it's more just the kid in me and my brother. We like the cowboy badass look, I guess you could say. We act like kids all the time, me and my brother, playing around. It's kind of where we've always been, what we've always done ... "
Kids, like bad-news cowboys, never admit that a sting or a bruise hurts.
And so it is with the NASCAR penalty. Hardly hurts at all, Dillon indicated.
The only thing was a bit of embarrassment before the public.
The ruling stung, "for a few minutes," he said. "Then I got over it, because I knew that it didn't help me, having that [jack-bolt clamp] go wrong. It hurt us.
"For a minute, with it getting in the news, you knew people were going to say, 'Oh, it helped him,' or whatever. But the real racers know what it did."
And so, "you just get on past it," he said ... but with one little look over his shoulder.
There's no Chase in Nationwide to reset the field for the championship.
"I just hope," he said, "we don't lose by six points."