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Davidson County fans celebrate hometown hero Austin Dillon’s Daytona 500 win

DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Davidson County locals celebrated their hometown hero Monday, after local driver Austin Dillon won the 60th Daytona 500 this weekend.

"It’s the equivalent of a local hero winning the Super Bowl or the World Series, or something like that, and it’s all here in your backyard," said Guy Grazies, a NASCAR fan.

Fans gathered at the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome to celebrate. The museum's usually closed on Mondays, but phones rang nearly nonstop, as eager fans called to get their hands on some winning merchandise.

People also drove on from all over the state and country, including NASCAR mega-fans like Barbara Hayes.

“I could talk NASCAR all day," she said.

Grazies drove from New Jersey to Daytona, then back to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte to witness a part of history.

“It was a 14-hour haul down to Daytona," he said.

Dillon's win was surreal and unexpected for many fans.

“I was thinking, wouldn’t it be so awesome if the No. 3 could get in victory lane? Because 17 years ago we were mourning the No. 3," Hayes said.

Now, Dillon's trophy will sit alongside Dale Earnhardt's in the RCR Museum, two decades after Earnhardt brought No. 3 to first in the same race.

“[Sunday] was like old school," Hayes said. "I had feelings back like I did like when Dale was racing. And to have Austin Dillon bring out the No. 3, it was so appropriate that Richard’s grandson bring it out and put it in victory lane. That was the ultimate jewel in the crown.”

Fans celebrated around town in Welcome too. Many of them piled into Kerley's BBQ Monday afternoon.

“I hear them talking about the moves he made and the win for him," said Buddy Kerley, the restaurant's owner.

Kerley started his restaurant 39 years ago -- the same year Richard Childress Racing set up shop in Welcome.

“He was a local guy in NASCAR around here, and to watch him and his race team come up to where they are today, it’s just unbelievable. It sure it," Kerley said.

The two businesses grew up together. Today, the town's racing shops bring in regulars to local restaurants like Kerley's and they expect this weekend's win to bring in an even bigger boost.

“It’s cool, all the recognition and all the business it brings in. It helps the community out a lot. We get a lot of people from up there come down here to eat," said Keith Stiers, who works at Kerley's BBQ.

“All of it is going to benefit so much from this win and the fact that a local actually has won the Daytona 500. It’s just wonderful," Hayes said.

The folks at Kerley's BBQ are hoping for a visit from Dillon soon, before he heads to Atlanta this weekend to race in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. They already know what they'll say next time he stops in for a bite.

“Great job. They’ve been working so hard for this. We’re proud of them," Kerley said.

“Well, if they win in Atlanta next would it’d be nice," Stiers added. "Championship would be real good.”