CINCINNATI - Backed by Richard Childress Racing (RCR) experience, strong sponsorship from national brands such Cheerios® and the return of the iconic No. 3 car, Austin Dillon is ready to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) mark during his upcoming rookie campaign.

The 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) and 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) will make his 14th all-time NSCS start in the Feb. 23 Daytona 500.

He'll race with veteran Crew Chief Gil Martin as part of a new-look RCR lineup made up of 17-time series winner Ryan Newman and 2011 Brickyard 400 champ Paul Menard.

"Every leap is something new and you've got to go at it the same way you've taken all the other races. I've gone into them trying to learn and gain experience each and every week.

"I feel like we've built a great team. We have some good leaders and a great group of guys around us. I'm working with Gil Martin. He has so much experience and we're going to use it to go make some noise our first year out," Dillon said.

The 23-year-old brought the No. 3 car, last raced by seven-time NSCS champion Dale Earnhardt, back to the track in style earlier this month when he led the series' Preseason Thunder test session at the famed Daytona International Speedway, the same venue where Earnhardt captured three NSCS victories and tragically passed after sustaining injuries during a crash in the closing moments of the 2001 Daytona 500.

"It's only a test, but anytime you can get some speed out of your cars and know you can have some speed throughout the year, it's nice," Dillon stated.

Along with the early speed, he's enjoyed witnessing the affect car's return is having on the loyal fans of the beloved No. 3. 

"It's been great. You smile seeing the fans out there with a lot of Earnhardt gear, excited to see it (the No. 3) back on the track. The link between Earnhardt fans, RCR and all the No. 3 fans is very special. I'm just excited and thankful to be the guy running it this year," he added.

Among the many challenging first steps he'll take transitioning to NASCAR's premier series is building chemistry with his new teammates.

"Everybody at our shop is pumped and ready to go. We're just getting started, but we'll be working together often. When the season starts, we'll have to dig together to try to take down the rest of the teams," Dillon said.

He'll also be challenged by a robust and talented NSCS rookie class in his attempt to add a crowned jewel to his collection of NASCAR Rookie of the Year Awards.

"We won Rookie of the Year in the (Camping World) Truck Series, Nationwide Series and all the way back to my (K&N Pro) East Series racing days. I'd like to get the last one here in the Cup Series.

"There's a huge (Sprint Cup Series) rookie class and that's something NASCAR hasn't had in a while. Racing against Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Parker Kligerman and those guys, they're all really talented racecar drivers. There will be a good race for (rookie of the year)," he said.

One known quantity he'll encounter during a season of infinite unknowns is the smile that will cross his face when he arrives at Kentucky Speedway June 28 for the NSCS Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.

Dillon raced to a 24th-place finish in the event last season with Phoenix Racing, but posted strong NNS and NCWTS results on NASCAR's roughest track with RCR.

He is the only NNS driver to earn back-to-back victories on the unique 1.5-mile track in the same season. He amassed a combined three top-five and four top-10 NNS finishes through four starts from 2012-2013. He additionally raced to NCWTS track pole awards in 2011 and 2010 en route to producing a series track-best second-place finish as well as a ninth-place finish through three starts.

"I love it, the character of the track. The more you get, the more it gives you.

"You have to change your line to find some speed here and there. You really can't worry about the bumps; you just have to drive through them.

"The track presents great opportunities for passing and you can see some wild racing near the end of the race," Dillon concluded.

Tickets and campsites for Kentucky Speedway's three-race June NASCAR weekend begins with the June 26 NCWTS UNOH 225 and continues with 300 miles of NNS racing June 27 before NSCS stars take to the track the fourth Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts.

NASCAR fans can purchase the best seats and campsites for the action-packed weekend by clicking the Tickets and Camping navigation on this website, calling (859) 578-2300 or visiting the speedway ticket office at 1 Speedway Drive in Sparta, Ky., just off Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 N.

- Kentucky Speedway -