Before he was a Daytona 500 champion, Austin Dillon was another skilled driver heading into the Feb. 18 race with a dream and probably a bundle of nerves.
And before he hit the track for the “Great American Race,” he got a little boost in the form of a lucky penny from the sweetest kid. But, this story goes back much further than this particular race weekend.
You’ll remember that Austin took over the No. 3 Chevrolet from the late great icon, Dale Earnhardt Sr. Dale took that car to Victory Lane for the first and only time 20 years ago to win the Daytona 500 back in 1998, with a lucky penny glued to his dashboard. It was not just any penny, but a penny given to him by a 6-year-old fan named Wessa Miller, who told Dale Sr. back in ’98 that the penny would help him finally win that race—and he did. You can read all about that iconic moment here.
So, it was only fitting that Austin would want to carry on such a special tradition as a nod to the greatest driver in history and former driver of his car. But, it would be even sweeter if the new penny also came from a young fan.
And just like magic, it did.
Racer reports the story like this: Austin was signing autographs for the Clash when he came across a young fan at the session who looked like he was having a good time but may not have known much about racing.
Austin told them, “Funny thing is, he had a white Ford hat on. I said, ‘Man, you got to take that off.’” (Remember, Austin drives a Chevy.)
He signed his hat and gave it to the kid and said, “Now look, I got to be your favorite driver, right?” And the young man told Austin, “I got you now.” And boy did he.
“The next day he had my hat on, and I was walking through the garage and I saw him at the fence, and he yelled at me. I turned and … walked over to him and he was like, ‘Hey, I got this for you.’”
It was none other than his own lucky penny. Austin put it in the car, and it’s still sitting on the dash.
“It’s pretty special,” Austin said. And it will remain in that car, glued to the dash for when the car goes on display in the Daytona 500 museum.
Austin then set out to find that sweet kid. The two reunited for a special lunch with Richard Childress Racing, where Jordan, the sweet young fan, got to officially hang with his new favorite driver, and even got to sit in one of the race cars!
Naturally, he now wants to be a race car driver, and we think NASCAR definitely needs more kind-hearted cuties like him! Talk about an awesome full-circle moment!
The next race kicks off this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.