In the spirit of transparency, I have a confession to make.
Watching NASCAR is not usually high on my list of things to do on a weekend afternoon. Not that I have anything against auto racing, it is just not my thing. Still, when the opportunity to interview one of the sport’s up and coming racers came along, I could not turn it down.
That opportunity came when racing teams rolled into town for NASCAR Weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Among them was a young driver from North Carolina who comes by racecar driving quite naturally. You might even say racing is built into his genetic code.
He is Ty Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, owner of Richard Childress Racing and a former NASCAR driver. Ty’s father is former driver Mike Dillon, and his older brother Austin drives as well.
Ty Dillon, 24, is driving his own way up racing’s food chain, but despite a demanding racing schedule, he still manages to spend time in the outdoors.
“I have always been raised in the outdoors, kind of started from my dad and my grandfather,” Dillon said. “We always found time to get outdoors whether we were traveling or what not. Hunting or fishing or riding bikes, whatever it may have been, it’s always been a big part of our life. I’ve definitely carried that on into my career, making sure I made time to do what I love.”
As it is for most of us, Dillon’s career comes with its own unique stresses and pressures. Imagine having to be somewhere different nearly every weekend most of the year. Then once you get to the new destination, you have to take practice laps, qualify and then race, all in a couple of days. Sure, it sounds fun, but somewhere along the line, it is sure to become a lot like work.
“The outdoors is something that’s just a way for me to get away from the stressful things that come from being a racecar driver,” Dillon said. “Even though it’s a cool job, you’re still busy all the time. So it’s (the outdoors) a cool way to kind of escape and go out and enjoy the world. We find ways to make it happen, and always try to find ways to get out and escape reality.”
Born and raised in North Carolina, Dillon cut his hunting teeth on whitetail deer, but his hunting pursuits brought him west in search of bull elk.
“I’ve been able to go on a couple of bow hunts for elk, and those are exciting, thrilling hunts every time,” Dillon said. “That’s probably my favorite thing to go hunt — with a bow after some elk. I’m looking forward to doing some more of those trips.”
Archery is a relatively new pursuit for Dillon, whose elk hunts have taken him to Colorado and New Mexico.
“I really enjoy archery,” he said. “It’s kind of given me a new love for hunting. I’ve done so much with a gun, and taken so many animals with a gun, that archery has given me a new awakening into a different style of hunting.”
So what is it about bowhunting that attracts the attention of someone who makes his living driving at speeds topping 180 mph?
“It’s closer quarters,” Dillon said, “and different times of the year, so the animals are acting a little bit different. And you really got to hunt hard, do a lot of walking and take the extra steps to harvest an animal.”
He also makes time to go fishing, but said he doesn’t have the patience to do it all the time. When Dillon does fish, he prefers fishing for bass in local ponds, though he enjoys deep-sea fishing as well.
Dillon was in Las Vegas to drive the No. 3 Chevrolet for Childress Racing in Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300. He finished seventh, two spots behind his brother in a race won by Las Vegas native Kyle Busch.
Now it’s on to Phoenix and another race, but his prerace preparations will include a bike ride somewhere in the outdoors.
Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.