NASCAR Dover Notebook: Austin Dillon Advances In Sprint Cup Chase

(NASCAR Wire Service)

Reid Spencer ~ NASCAR Wire Service

Austin Dillon (3) battles with Kurt Busch (41) during Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Austin Dillon (3) battles with Kurt Busch (41) during Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Citizen Solider 400 at Dover International Speedway (Photo: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DOVER, Del. – A catastrophe at New Hampshire could have knocked Austin Dillon out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup—if the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing had let it.

But Dillon and crew chief Slugger Labbe came to the elimination race at Dover International Speedway with a fast car and the perseverance to score Dillon’s first finish of better than 20th at The Monster Mile.

In fact, Dillon ran eighth in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover, the second car one lap down in a race that ended with a 202-lap green-flag run and Martin Truex Jr. with a 7.527 winning margin. But for Dillon, who had to resort to a backup car a week earlier after a wreck in practice at New Hampshire, eighth was more than good enough.

Dillon advanced to the Chase’s Round of 12 by 11 points over Tony Stewart, who finished 13th on Sunday. While Stewart’s hopes for a fourth championship in his final season of Sprint Cup racing ended at Dover, Dillon grabbed the final berth in the Round of 12 and will continue in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.

“We wrecked a car in practice (at New Hampshire) and we had to use a backup car, an older car that wasn’t our primary that we wanted to have,” Dillon said. “We just stayed focused. And once again God has blessed us. I’m still awestruck, because things like this just don’t happen.

“I’m proud to be going on to the final 12 and having race cars that are capable of moving on. I have three really solid tracks coming up (Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega), and I am going to drive the wheels off of it and have fun.”

Dillon didn’t learn his running position in the points until the final laps of the race.

“I don’t care how many it was, whether it was 12 or 11 or 2 or 1, as long as we’re in the next round,” he said. “It feels good. It’s time to knock some more of these guys out, because we’ve got this opportunity, and I want to say that we’re going to be the underdog in this next round, so let’s go do it.”
The No. 2 Fords of Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 of Joey Logano weren’t flashy, and they didn’t have the speed to challenge frontrunners Martin Truex Jr. and Jimmie Johnson in Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.

But Keselowski finished fourth and Logano sixth as the Team Penske drivers advanced comfortably into the Round of 12 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And now that all drivers start the round with 3,000 points after a reset, Keselowski and Logano are back on equal footing.

“Overall, we did what we had to do,” Logano said. “The points are back to zero, and we can head to the next round and try to get a win. Every track is different. Dover is obviously a beast of its own. It’s a very cool race track, but everything is so different compared to where we’re going to go next week to Charlotte and then Kansas and Talladega.

“They’re all going be a lot different for sure, but we’ll take what we learned here for next year, and I’m sure there are some things that we can apply to the next race, but most of it is kind of track-specific.”

Last year, after the first points reset, Logano swept the three races in the Round of 12.

“It’s nice to have the reset,” he said. “We weren’t bad off in points at all, but to have the reset – we didn’t have the bonus points going into this round, so it’s nice to be at zero with everyone and be able to try to get ourselves a win and get through or have some nice, solid days like we had today to give us some kind of cushion by the time we get to Talladega.

“We’re ready to go, and now we’ll just wait to see what happens.”


Runner-up Kyle Busch finished a whopping 7.527 seconds behind Martin Truex Jr., winner of Sunday’s Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Though the Joe Gibbs Racing organization that fields Busch’s cars gets its engines from Toyota Racing Development (TRD), as does Truex’s Furniture Row Racing, and though the organizations maintain a technical partnership, Truex’s team has enjoyed an edge in speed of late, winning two of the first three races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Don’t think Busch hasn’t noticed.

“I was just waiting to make my move,” Busch quipped after the race. “I had him in my sights all day long – nah, I was just kidding. I had nobody in my sights all day long. I was in my own area code and he was off in his own zip code. …

“We’ve got really fast cars, just missing the boat a little bit on something the 78 team has figured out. We finished second here just like we did here last year at this race. It was a good points day for us, we were able to move on to the next round, and we can keep being able to do that and just get ourselves to Homestead. That’s where it matters the most.”

Busch can make that assertion first-hand. Last year he won the Sprint Cup championship by winning the season final at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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