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Austin Dillon braces for title run

Austin Dillon's first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was a memorable one. Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports

Sure, Austin Dillon wouldn't mind getting on with the last three races of the Nationwide Series season. He has an eight-point margin over Sam Hornish Jr. for the lead in driver standings, which he maintained in finishing second -- to his opponent's third -- two weeks ago at Charlotte.

Having captured the points lead in finishing sixth at Kansas Speedway the previous weekend, the Richard Childress Racing driver has the feel of a closer. But the 23-year-old former Truck series champion doesn't seem to be in too much of a rush. The business of trying to finish off a second top-three NASCAR series title will happen in due time, just like his launch as a Sprint Cup driver next season, presumably in a rebooted No. 3 Chevrolet.

So for now, Dillon tests Sprint Cup cars, hunts and awaits his chance to get back to the stretch run of the Nationwide Series on Nov. 2 at Texas Motor Speedway.

"We've been on the road for 23 weeks, at least I have because I went and ran Talladega [in Sprint Cup in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet] last weekend," he said in a phone interview with ESPN.com. "Obviously, that was nice. It's good to have one weekend, have a little rest, have a good time before we go into these last three and get really serious."

Serious performance figures to be a prerequisite. Dillon has an average finish of 9.0 this season, 11 top-5s and 20 top-10s, while Hornish Jr. has a win, 14 top-5s, 22 top-10s and an average finish of 9.4.

Dillon's first Talladega experience in a Cup car was beneficial, he said, in assuring his competitive instincts stayed sharp.

"I like to be in any type of car," he said. "You like the routine of practice and staying competitive during a weekend. It's good to go through a race weekend. It's nice to really go out there and compete. It keeps your mindset on the right track."

Dillon was third on the final lap before attempting to duck low and prompt a push from Ricky Stenhouse Jr., but was turned when Stenhouse slipped back into the high line. Dillon was sent airborne after being mashed by Casey Mears. He finished 26th. But even his aeronautical experience bore value, he said.

"Maybe I got mine out of the way," he chuckled. "It was pretty wild. I was like, 'I'm that guy right now flying through the air.'"

Though no official announcement has been made, Dillon expects to be a part of a three-driver RCR team next season with Ryan Newman and Paul Menard. Dillon's current Nationwide sponsor, AdvoCare, referenced Dillon's planned jump in a press release earlier this season announcing its decision to stay in the under series and switch to Trevor Bayne's program at Roush Fenway Racing.

"We're working through it right now," Dillon said of a move to Cup. "We're getting closer and closer trying to get everything done. It's that tough, but we're getting close for sure."

In a No. 3 car?

"I think that's the direction we're headed," he said.

The more immediate direction is Homestead-Miami Speedway and the season finale on Nov. 16, via Texas and Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 9. But for one more week, some downtime. Sort of.

"We've stayed pretty busy doing tests [like a Cup prep at Richmond on Tuesday] and I always keep myself busy," he said. "They always have something scheduled for me. I've been hunting a little bit here and there. I was in South Dakota pheasant hunting. I shot an elk with my bow earlier this year in Colorado.

"I go to the shop and work out with the guys when I am in town, try to do a little bit of everything, really."