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Dillon on Crew Chief Change: ‘We Needed a Boost’


LAS VEGAS, NV – March 3, 2024 – Pennzoil 400 NASCAR Cup Series Race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Photo: Myk Crawford | The Podium Finish)

RIDGEWAY, Va. — Austin Dillon goes into Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway with a new crew chief, but one that he’s more than familiar with.

Richard Childress Racing announced this week that Dillon will reunite with Justin Alexander, the third time the duo has linked. They did six Xfinity Series races back in 2016 before 168 races at the Cup level since the beginning of 2017. Alexander called the shots in all four of Dillon’s Cup Series victories, including the 2017 Coca-Cola 600 and the 2018 Daytona 500.

“It’s communication and execution. Justin knows how I tick,” Dillon said in a media availability Saturday. “He knows that he needs to deliver to me from my standpoint in the race car and what I need to hear to do my best. When I’m frustrated or something, he handles that well.”

RCR made the switch after Dillon got off to arguably the worst start of his career. Through seven races, Dillon sits 28th in points with a season-best finish of 16th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Otherwise, the 33-year-old from Welcome, North Carolina, hasn’t finished better than 16th.

Dillon started the season with Keith Rodden as crew chief after pairing up at the beginning of last year. They finished 29th in points in 2023, scoring just one top-five finish and recording a series-high 10 DNFs.

After finishing 24th last weekend at Richmond Raceway, two laps off the pace, Dillon and the organization felt a change was necessary to maximize the rest of the season. They tabbed Alexander, who stepped away from crew chief duties and became the competition director in 2022, to run the show. He wanted to get off the road every week to spend more time with his family.


Austin Dillon during NASCAR Cup Series practice on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. (Photo: Wayne Riegle | The Podium Finish)

“We needed a boost. We needed to get this 3-team going,” Dillon said. “It just didn’t work out from a standpoint of wrecks — a lot of wrecks that we got into. Not all of this is induced from setup, I just think the communication of having Justin back on the box is a big part of it.

“Losing Justin was tough. It was something he needed to go do for him and his family, and getting him back is awesome. It kind of just worked, really. It wasn’t any kind of hindrance. It was just a swap in RCR. It’s not like we went outside the company to find somebody and bring in new ideas or try something else. This was within the company and mostly just trying to maximize what we have at RCR.

“This change wouldn’t have been possible if Justin wasn’t there, wasn’t at RCR. You just can’t go out and find a guy to crew chief these things mid-year. This was within our company and it was just kind of a win-win.”

Rodden, a veteran crew chief for Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne, will transition into a role similar to what Alexander previously held, Dillon said. The team press release stated that he’d take on “a larger role across the organization.”

“I think Keith’s excited about his new role,” Dillon said. “From what I’m understanding, I think he’s excited to be in that role and that was one of the original roles that he wanted coming over here … I think Keith will do a good job in the role that Justin had. They’re pretty much swapping roles and he can bring something to the table. But being at the track is so important to knowing what’s going on in the garage.”

Dillon will start Sunday’s Cook Out 400 from _. The race is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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