DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Austin Dillon swears this story was completely organic.
"Immediately I thought oh someone must’ve told him the story," the defending Daytona 500 champ said. "But he said no. I just wanted to give him a penny.”
It all began during Speed Weeks at Daytona International Speedway last year.
While interacting with fans, Dillon found one young fan with a "Ford" hat on, and promptly traded him for one of Dillon's Chevy hats. That young fan was Jordan Ware, and it was his first time at Daytona.
"You see a lot of different fans at tracks, and you wanna create a relationship with them to let them know what kind of person you are," Dillon said.
It was an instant connection. Dillon says Ware was nearly moved to tears at the sight of the new hat. But now, it was Ware's turn to re-pay his new favorite driver.
"I didn't have nothing to give him at the time," Ware explained. "I just [saw] it, and I picked it up.... I decided to give it to him for luck for the 500."
It may have just been a "lucky penny" to even Ware, but to a NASCAR history-junkie like Dillon, he was instantly reminded of something greater.
Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress, the legendary racing group owner. Childress Racing Group's most reknown driver is the late Dale Earnhardt, who won his lone, Daytona 500 victory in 1998. Prior to that race, during Speed Weeks, Earnhardt was meeting with Make-A-Wish Foundation youngsters. One of those children, Wessa Miller, gave Earnhardt a penny that day. Earnhardt would tape it inside his race car during the 500, and, after 20 years, finally won the title that had eluded him for so long.
Dillon knew he had to do the same.
And, like Earnhardt, Dillon won. 20 years to the day of Earnhardt's victory.
"It's special, you know? [Jordan] just wanted to give me a gift back," Dillon said.
One year removed, it was Dillon's turn to give Jordan a gift back. The Tuesday prior to the Daytona 500, Jordan and his family believed Dillon had simply gifted them a trip to Walt Disney World. While taking photos with the Harley J. Earl trophy, Dillon popped up behind them.
"Whenever somebody wins something, they always say 'I'm going to Disney World!'" Dillon smiled, noting "where better?" to celebrate this story than the most magical place on Earth.
Two drivers -- both driving the iconic, Number Three. Two different kids. Twenty years apart. Driving for the same company.
It really does seem magical -- or at least some sort of divine intervention.
After all, they do say that "pennies from heaven" come in three's.