Behind the scenes with Austin Dillon
“How we doin’?” Austin Dillon said as he stepped into a suite filled with NASCAR fans at Kentucky Speedway on Friday night, just 24 hours before he would climb behind the wheel of the No. 3 Cheerios Protein car in the Quaker State 400.
“Who has questions? Ask away,” said Dillon, as the group immediately starting snapping photos and recording video with their phones.
Confident and friendly, Dillon’s clearly already used to having all eyes on him when he enters a room.
It’s also clear he recognizes the importance of connecting with his fans.
“We have a lot of Cheer the 3 fans out there and they’ve been excited about seeing the car running well. It’s getting better each and every week,” Dillon told me.
At 24, he’s in the middle of his rookie season in NASCAR’s 2014 Sprint Cup Series.
Thanks to the Cheerios Racing team at General Mills, I was fortunate to follow Dillon around a bit this weekend in Kentucky. My goal was to capture some of the sights and sounds, and interviews with people who work for the No. 3 Cheerios Racing team and Richard Childress Racing. (Here’s the result).
It’s hard to pinpoint my favorite part of my first experience at a NASCAR race. No doubt, it’s truly a spectacle of sport and a culture all of its own, from the teams to the fans.
And yes, the race on Saturday night was loud! Every bit as you might expect. I sat in the pit box for most of the race and my ears, which were covered at all times with headphones or ear plugs, are still ringing as I write this.
But the highlights for me were a result of the great access I had to Dillon, including interviewing him while we rode on the back of a moving golf cart – as you’ll see in the video.
Memorable to say the least.
I also was able to step inside the No. 3 hauler – which transports two cars to each race, as I learned, and stores various items and equipment for the team.
Before Saturday’s race, I was able to observe the driver’s meeting, where teams received their final instructions from NASCAR officials.
And, I spent some time with Richard Childress (who also is Dillon’s grandfather), Dillon’s crew chief, Gil Martin, and spotter, Billy O’Dea.
“We’re happy to see the 3 back and we’re glad Austin’s in it,” Childress said during an appearance in a suite. “He’s doing well as a rookie … It’s early and I think he’s gonna make a really good showing.”
General Mills has been an active sponsor of racing for more than 15 years. The Cheerios Racing team’s first year working with Dillon has been exciting, and includes the launch of the “Cheer the 3” social media presence on Twitter and Facebook (where you can register to win a commemorative piece of art, here).
By the way, as I mentioned above, Dillon’s Cheerios car had a slight twist to this weekend. It was outfitted in a one-time paint scheme for the new Cheerios Protein cereal, in partnership with Kroger, based in nearby Cincinnati.
Here’s a photo of the car with Dillon, me, and Janet Pettit and Anna Stoesz from the Cheerios Racing team at General Mills.
It was a great experience and was by far the most enjoyable project, in terms of gathering content at a big event, that I’ve ever worked on in communications.
And I hope you enjoy the behind the scenes look at Austin Dillon and it inspires you to Cheer the 3!
Editor’s note: Have you seen Dillon’s new Cheerios Protein commercial yet? Check it out!