NASCAR’s Dillon dominates Pit Road Pickleball
DALLAS, TX - NASCAR has officially joined the picklesphere.
Austin Dillon took home the win. The Daytona 500 champion and two-time NASCAR champion can now add NASCAR pickleball champion to his list of accomplishments.
“It was a lot of fun to get out there and win,” said Dillon, regarding his 11-1, 11-1 victory. “When you have your back up against the wall at the end of a single elimination tournament, your adrenaline is pumping. I think we only gave up a total of five points the entire tournament, so we played pretty well.”
The duo was absolutely dominant.
“That was the first time I got to play in a tournament-style setting with someone. I went to Sarah because of her experience, and she’s a great pickleball player,” he shared. “The tournament was a lot of fun. There were some new players and players who had some experience, but there’s quite a few drivers starting to pick it up - Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Bubba Wallace, my brother Ty.”
As of now, though, the battle between drivers on the pickleball court isn’t as competitive as it is behind the wheel.
“I don’t have any pickleball competition in NASCAR,” said Dillon.
The 33-year-old Welcome, NC native started playing pickleball in 2020 when his mom introduced him to the sport.
And he's been honing his skills ever since.
“I played a lot of ping-pong growing up and I’ve got a little bit of an athletic background. I probably play the most, too,” mentioned Dillon. “I like creating new shots and I love the game.”
Dillion hits the pickleball court two to three times a week, often playing mixed doubles with his wife, Whitney, and Yates-Parker and her husband.
“They come over to our race shop where we have an indoor court set up. We play at lunchtime and Wednesday nights. We actually created a league last year,” he said.
Interestingly enough, Dillon discovered that certain driving skills translated rather easily to pickleball.
“Hand-eye coordination and having the ability to think quick on your feet with things moving around is key. Also, the vision part of it is huge, and seeing what’s going on in your peripheral vision to see where other players are on the court to try to then make a good shot,” he described.
Things happen incredibly fast on the race track, of course, and the same can be said about about pickleball as well.
“Anytime you can train your mind to work at a really high pace and complete a task, I think it is a huge advantage,” said Dillon, who envisions competing in an APP tournament someday. “I like pickleball because it’s kind of like high-speed chess, and that’s kind of how racing is at certain tracks. You really have to think in pickleball to put your opponent in a weak position.”
Pit Road Pickleball was not the first time a court was constructed in the middle of a race track.
“They started setting up courts this past season and it's pretty cool. It’s great because we’re on the road a lot and it gives us something to do. It’s nice to go out there and get a little competitive, get the juices flowing after practice or after qualifying,” explained Dillon. “I think it can be huge. I think if we keep building on it we could create a really big tournament.”
He anticipates pickleball gaining a more noticeable presence at NASCAR events.
“Any track in NASCAR is a great venue to put up courts. The Charlotte Motor Speedway wants to host a tournament at their drag strip. If they could get that up, it’s a perfect place for multiple pickleball courts going all the way down the strip. You could put on a heck of a tournament there,” added Dillon.
Let’s wave the checkered flag for pickleball!
Cover photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway
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