Ty Dillon is a legitimate Nationwide title contender. There's no denying the fact.
He's got a lot of things going his way coming into the 2014 Nationwide season, but one key element is momentum. His momentum is left over from his recent two-year stint in the Camping World Truck Series (CWTS), where he backed up his 2012 Rookie of the Year victory with two wins and a runner-up spot to Matt Crafton in the final standings for 2013.
But now he begins his first full season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, where he'll be vying for RotY honors. The catch is that with the way Richard Childress has invested so much into the careers of both Ty and Austin Dillon, there's a strong chance Ty will do more than just win a measly rookie award. Even more, there's a chance that Ty can clinch the title while winning top rookie honors.
Granted, both of the Dillon boys get a lot of flack from the NASCAR community. They've been accused of having their rides handed to them and being spoiled rich kids. But approaching the topic from any angle still shows that the Dillon brothers do have talent, especially Ty. As a matter of fact, even if Ty was with another team, he'd still produce results that could possibly trounce big brother Austin's.
Looking at Ty, you see a quiet young man who only tries to get the most out of his equipment. He's a young man driven to succeed. He doesn't want to make the same waves Austin does. He's a lot like Matt Kenseth in that way. You rarely see him mad like he was at Bowmanville and the second Martinsville race of 2013.
Meanwhile, looking at his results, he's a consistent driver. In his entire CWTS career, he has made 47 starts so far. Of those 47 starts, he's earned a total of 3 wins, but he has 31 top-10 finishes to go along with them. This isn't counting the issues, such as crashes and mechanical failures. Meanwhile, 12 Nationwide starts have resulted in four top-10s. Let's not forget that the kid won the 2011 ARCA championship at the age of 19.
That isn't for lack of trying. In his Nationwide debut in 2012, he posted an eighth at Dover and followed it up with a third at Indy.
He excels on tracks that are a mile in length or larger. He got his best results in the trucks at places like Texas, Michigan and Kansas as well as Daytona and Talladega. Now that he's the primary focus in the Nationwide Series for Richard Childress Racing (RCR), he could bring that consistency with him.
Keeping that in mind, he's only had a single DNF during his entire truck series run (an engine failure at Dover in 2013). That being said, he's great about finishing races and earning as many points as he can. He's never been the type of driver to lose sight of the big picture during the season.
Remember 2012? He remained in contention all season long, which is largely unheard when a rookie is mentioned. In 2012 he looked more like Kurt Busch during Busch's rookie truck series season than Matt Kenseth. He almost won the championship, but contact from Kyle Larson changed all that, unfortunately.
2013 showed much of the same promise as 2012, only this time Dillon earned a second-place points finish to go along with his two wins and second-place points run. He's a threat to win the title in 2014, and he can do that thanks to the support from RCR.
With backing from longtime RCR partner Bass Pro Shops and Yuengling, the No. 3 Nationwide team looks to carry on the championship tradition they have established in the series. Only this time, it seems more likely that they could snatch a victory or three with the younger Dillon brother.
However, the team needs to up the ante for 2014. Sure, they're the 2013 Nationwide Series champions. But they won the title in a white-knuckle fashion without winning a single race during the season. The No. 3 team does not need that kind of drama this season. Ty will have to take a few risks if the situation calls for it. The No. 3 cannot go winless again.
What could be fitting for this team is that their program is suiting perfectly for Ty's needs on the track. Like Ty, they seem to have greater strength on tracks ranging a mile or larger. It won't take long for Ty to get acclimated with his new team. They will gel quickly, and expect for the results to be immediate.
With that being said, the No. 3 Nationwide team has a chance to build a legacy bigger than the one they established with Austin during his time in the car. Sure, he won the 2013 Nationwide championship, but he's a driver that tends to go beyond his means and capabilities. He's louder, flashier, and a bit more energetic behind the wheel.
But not Ty.
That's the difference that'll put Dillon in Victory Lane this year, and if the team plays their cards right they will be hoisting the championship trophy over a Camaro that still has rookie stripes on the rear bumper.
Follow Joseph on Twitter: @ThatSheltonGuy