Just days before he defends his Daytona 500 victory, NASCAR star Austin Dillon spent his day off from the speedway Tuesday having a magical day at Walt Disney World Resort.
Dillon, 28, interacted with popular Disney characters, posed for photos wearing Mickey Mouse ears and experienced several signature attractions, such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
He also surprised a young racing fan, who had given him a lucky penny just before he won the Daytona 500 last year. Dillon presented the young fan, 12-year-old Jordan Wade of Bradenton, FL., with a Daytona 500 champions ring.
Last February in the week leading up to the Daytona 500, Dillon spotted the young fan wearing a Ford hat at Daytona while Dillon was signing autographs.
“I told him, ‘Look, man, if you ain’t got a favorite driver, I’ll give you my hat if you choose me as your favorite,’” Dillon said.
The next day Jordon was back at the track. He saw Dillon and called him over.
“He gave me the hat, and I had to think of something to give him back in return,” Jordan said. “Most people wouldn’t pick up a penny, you know, but they’d pick up a quarter or a nickel. But I gave it to him for good luck.”
Dillon flashed back to 1998 when Dale Earnhardt won his first, and what turned out to be his only, Daytona 500. The No. 3 Chevy that day had a lucky penny glued to the dash from fan Wessa Miller. Dillon, 7 at the time was in victory lane that day.
20 years later the No. 3 was back in victory lane after winning the Daytona 500, for the first time since Earnhardt had done it. And it too had a penny attached to the dash, one from Jordan Wade.
Tuesday Jordon got the same ring worn by Dillon and the winning Daytona 500 crew.
“That penny’s got a home forever in that winning 500 car,” Dillon said.