Imagine: It’s your annual fantasy football draft. You’re at home, computer on your lap and a cold drink in your hand. It’s your turn to pick, and with your selection you choose... your close friend?
That’s exactly what NASCAR driver Austin Dillon did when he chose his buddy, Carolina Panthers rookie running back Christian McCaffrey, for a few of his fantasy football teams.
“I have McCaffrey on a few teams and (Jonathan) Stewart,” Dillon said at last week’s NASCAR media day. “Didn’t know what they were gonna do so I paired them, and they looked pretty solid after the first game.”
But go back – how many teams does Dillon actually have?
Eight, a far cry from the typical one or two. You see, Dillon’s somewhat obsessed with fantasy football. Sometimes he’ll even ask other people to drive places so in the car he can update his rosters.
So how does the Lewisburg, N.C. native manage them all, especially as he gets ready for the second race of the playoffs in New Hampshire this weekend?
“A lot of time. A lot. Putting time into it is the only way you can be good at it truthfully,” Dillon said. “I’ve got some guys I talk to here and there, get some advice from, but I also read a lot of different stuff.”
Many of those fantasy rankings and projections were high on McCaffrey before the season began, but Dillon’s Panthers fandom might have meant he’d pick the rookie anyhow. You can’t fault him for loving Carolina either. As one of the two remaining playoff drivers born and raised in North Carolina (Ryan Blaney being the other), Dillon is happy to carry the flag for his state.
That starts with the football team, even if McCaffrey and Stewart are the only Panthers on his fantasy teams.
“I like (receiver) Kelvin (Benjamin) too,” Dillon said, “but he just didn’t fall to me in any of my leagues.”
Dillon got his Panthers season tickets in 2011, the same year quarterback Cam Newton was drafted No. 1 overall. He sits in the Gridiron Club, an inside-outside combination area at Bank of America Stadium. At least, that’s where he sits when he has time to go.
For Dillon, that usually isn’t until November when the NASCAR season is over. He’s 12th in the standings now (he finished 14th last season), but the championship race at Homestead isn’t until Nov. 19th. Coincidentally, that is also Carolina’s bye week.
Usually Dillon gets to three or four games a season, but even that might be a challenge this year. He’s slated to get married in December, meaning there won’t be much time for tailgates and whole football weekends.
“I’ve got a lot going on then,” Dillon said, “so we’ll see.”
If he can’t make time, he’ll still need a football fix.
And in that case, his fantasy teams will have to suffice.