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Austin Dillon feels like Superman after Daytona crash

Walking away from a harrowing accident has increased Austin Dillon’s confidence in how safe NASCAR keeps its drivers.

Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Initially, Austin Dillon had no desire to see video of the crash that that launched him into Daytona International Speedway's front stretch catch fence. He knew the accident was bad and had no desire to relive the events.

It was only after a phone conversation with younger brother, Ty, that Dillon realized the severity of what happened during Sunday's Coke Zero 400, and how lucky he was to escape with just a bruised forearm and tailbone.

"To hear him be upset and worried about me, it was like, all right, I need to look at this wreck," Dillon said in a teleconference Tuesday. "And I did, and you can see where a guy watching it from home not knowing how I was and the pit crew kind of running out to the car, it was pretty dramatic right there for 30 seconds, 38 seconds or so."

The catch fence kept Dillon's No. 3 Chevrolet from entering the grandstands, but after landing back on the track, Brad Keselowski -- who couldn't slow down because of oil covering the surface -- then struck Dillon's car.

When the terrifying sequence ended, Dillon's battered car was upside near pit road while his engine assembly, which had become dislodged, was smoldering elsewhere on the track.

Because the accident had damaged his radio, Dillon couldn't convey to his Richard Childress Racing team that was he fine. That lack of communication caused some panicked moments, as Dillon could hear them but they couldn't hear the 25-year-old responding.

It was only when crewmembers from several teams had converged on Dillon's car and signaled he was OK that everyone was made aware of his well-being.

"I was saying, ‘I'm okay, I'm okay,' but it wasn't going through," Dillon said. "I could hear in their voice how scared they were, and they were saying, ‘Talk to me, Buddy, talk to me,' and I couldn't respond to them. So that was a time for them I'm sure it was just painful because they didn't know how good I was."

Describing the crash as "wicked" and "violent looking," Dillon understands why there was such high concern about his safety. As for any lingering ramifications from being in an accident of this magnitude and whether it may effect his performance going forward, he says it's just the opposite.

"I used to think when I was racing going up through the ranks, every now and then you had to take a good hit to get your confidence up in the safety equipment that you had," Dillon said. "And when you did, the next week sometimes you come back more confident.

"For me, I try and put it in the back of my head, forget about it and move on. You have to be able to move on and trust in the safety equipment. If I can take a lick like that and feel as good as I do right now, I feel like I can do anything. You feel like Superman."

Dillon credits NASCAR for constructing a car that prevented him from being seriously harmed. But debris from when he got into the catch fence injured several spectators (none seriously), marking the fourth such incident since 2009 when a driver got airborne and ripped apart the front stretch fencing, sending shrapnel spewing over the grandstands.

All four instances have occurred at either Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway, NASCAR's two restrictor-plate tracks where horsepower limitations see the drivers run in large packs just inches apart. Consequently, spectacular multi-car wrecks are commonplace.

"You can't blame things on Daytona," Dillon said. "I feel like it's a racetrack that has done its job to put on good races. We just have to keep developing to keep our stands safer, our drivers safer and do what we can as a sport to develop and bring new technology to keep it safe.

"I think we can do things to help slow down some of the wrecks and might keep us from catching air. ... I feel like we can create good racing because up until that wreck we had some really good racing Monday morning, but I think the wreck kind of tarnished a great race.

"We'll work and develop ways to make it where we're not flying through the air."