TAMPA — A mutual friend was the last thing the Lightning’s Alex Killorn and NASCAR’s Austin Dillon expected to have in common Thursday night in a jersey-helmet exchange.
Dillon, the 2018 Daytona 500 champion, was texting friend Robby Scott a few days ago when Scott told Dillon to say hey to his buddy Alex for him.
Scott and Dillon played Little League together in North Carolina and made it to the Little League World Series in 2002. They stayed close friends through middle school. Then Scott went to high school with Killorn at Deerfield (Mass.) Academy.
The trio had never crossed paths collectively until now.
Killorn gave Dillon a blue home Lightning jersey before the game against the Penguins at Amalie Arena, and in exchange, he received a customized racing helmet from Dillon, who drives in NASCAR’s Cup series.
Dillon hasn’t been much of a hockey fan. He has dropped the puck at a Blue Jackets game but never paid much attention to the sport outside of this and that. Meanwhile, Scott has been begging Dillon to go to a Hurricanes game.
Now, Dillon said, there’s a good chance he could “start tuning in more.”
“Now I have somebody to follow,” Dillon said. “It’s kind of like racing. I feel like when people come to the racetrack and meet someone for the first time at races, they start following it. And the same as other sports. You just want to follow it more because you have something to invest in.”
Dillon said the Blue Jackets experience was neat but he thinks the vibe in Tampa Bay is more exciting. He was ready for a cool experience, too — literally, since he wore a T-shirt to the game thinking Florida weather instead of a hockey rink.
Other than that, he had one other expectation:
“Well, Alex’s (nickname) is the ‘Killer,’ so I hope he kills the puck into the net,” Dillon said. “I’m pumped to watch the game and see how everything goes.”