Carolina Hurricanes fans have long endured potshots from fans of other teams, bemoaning the lack of hockey history in the southern United States, dismissing them as unworthy and unable to appreciate the complexity and long history of hockey in general and the NHL in particular, and suggesting that they have better things to do and should go enjoy college basketball and NASCAR while leaving the fastest game on ice to the True Fans.
But what if I told you that counted among those fans of the Hurricanes were...wait for it...actual NASCAR drivers and crew members?
Ty Dillon is a name you may not know. You might know his older brother, Austin. You have almost certainly heard of his grandfather, Richard Childress. And you are undoubtedly familiar with the most famous driver ever in the Childress stable, the late Dale Earnhardt. Suffice it to say, Dillon, a third-generation stock car racer and a native of Lewisville, near Winston-Salem, is as NASCAR as one can get.
And yet, his free time is largely spent keeping tabs on the Hurricanes, who moved to North Carolina when Dillon was five years old. He might have been too young to remember Richard Petty driving a Zamboni down I-40 in 1997 to promote the arrival of the team, but he’s been a fan for many years. First becoming a fan of the team in 2006, when he was in high school and became wrapped up in the Canes’ run to the Stanley Cup, the team’s success last season crystallized Dillon’s love for the Hurricanes and his appreciation for hockey.
Canes Country recently caught up with Dillon, who will be in Richmond next week driving the number 13 Chevrolet for Germain Racing - and might just be keeping an eye on the Canes’ preseason game at Washington that night while racing.
CC: What was it that got you interested in the Hurricanes?
TD: I remember when they won the Stanley Cup, I was really young, but my fandom really grew this year. We got invited to come to a game and maybe sound the [siren] but some things got crossed up, but we came to the game anyway, my wife and I, and we just had a blast. It was a playoff game against the Capitals, and we just had a blast at the game. Now we’re both hooked and big time fans.
CC: What was it that hooked you on it? What did you really enjoy about it that got you interested?
TD: Just the atmosphere, the fans and the intensity, it’s an awesome sport and a great team. We had a great time. I don’t think we sat down once during the game. For them to have such a young team do so well, it was really fun to watch. I know we’re going to be hooked in this year, watching a lot of games and cheering them on, trying to make it out to some more games.
CC: What’s the most difficult thing about trying to follow the Hurricanes when you’re on the road as much as you are?
TD: Probably just getting the time to watch the games. I keep up with the scores on my phone quite a bit, but actually getting time to sit down and watch a game is kind of few and far between. But when I do, I really enjoy it. It was a fun date for my wife and I. We have a really busy schedule, and our daughter [makes it busier] too, so it’s always a little hard to watch the games, but we have a lot of fun when we get to.
CC: Is there anyone else in the garage who is a Hurricanes fan?
TD: There’s a lot of crew members, friends of ours, guys on my race team. I don’t know any certain drivers, but guys on our team are big fans. Our PR rep is a huge fan of the Hurricanes and the Checkers. Our tire guy’s a big fan. So we all kind of group together and talk about them. We have a nice little group that follows [the Canes].
CC: Do you remember anything about the 2006 Stanley Cup run, or was that a little early?
TD: I was probably 15, so I was really young. I just remember that it was really fun to watch, and I remember some of the names, but now it would mean a whole lot more because I’ve paying attention to it and following them. I’m looking forward to them maybe going back and doing it again.
CC: Going to put you on the spot here: who’s your favorite player?
TD: I like Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, those are probably my two favorites right now. I’ve got an Aho jersey at home.
Our thanks to Ty Dillon for chatting with us and giving us some insight into life as a Hurricanes fan while also handling his own career in professional sports! You can follow Ty on Twitter at @tydillon and on Instagram at @ty_dillon, and the next time you find yourself watching a NASCAR race, keep your eye out for the #13 Chevy that might just have a familiar logo somewhere in the forest of sponsor decals.