NASCAR » 30 June 2012
Nationwide: First win for Austin Dillon
Series rookie Austin Dillon scored his first win in the NASCAR Nationwide championship with a totally dominant display in the Friday night race at Kentucky Speedway.
22-year-old series rookie Austin Dillon had already done more than enough on Friday to have been plenty pleased with his weekend's work, by claiming his second series pole position ahead of the Feed the Children 300.
But that proved to be nothing compared to the peerless performance he put in during the evening race itself under the floodlights of Kentucky Speedway, which saw him immediately pull away from a duelling Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski to lead all but eight of the 200 laps of the race - the most by any race winner at Kentucky - and easily clinch his first victory in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
With only two cautions all evening, the only opportunities that others had to lead during the race were briefly during pit stop rotations. Otherwise Dillon had the run of the place and duly led the first 81 laps straight, then led for another 55 laps in the middle of the race, before returning to lead for all of the last 56 laps all the way to the chequered flag, by which time he had a huge lead of almost 10s over the rest of the field.
The two cautions fell on lap 26 and 143. The first was for a spin by Jamie Mosley in turn 4, while the second was for debris on the frontstretch caused by Mike Wallace slapping the wall. The final caution enabled a mass wave-around that at least meant the race finished with eight drivers including Dillon himself on the lead lap, otherwise this could really have been a one-man show.
Not that the race seemed all that easy and comfortable for Dillon himself, who complained that in fact "I was loose the whole race," which had made the evening very hard work.
"I'd just get looser and looser, and I was really driving as straight as I could not to slip the tires. I just kind of back-steered the whole race," he said, giving credit to crew chief Danny Stockman for a final adjustment that tightened him up in the corners and allowed him to drive away from Kurt Busch in the final stint.
"Austin Dillon, he was in his own zip code," conceded Busch afterwards. "I thought we could reel him in with 20 to go and put on a show for the fans here in Kentucky," he added of his efforts in the Kyle Busch Motorsports #54. "He was just too strong tonight ... He just had that car dialled in. There was nothing that we could do."
Dillon's success puts the black #3 Chevy back in victory lane where it had been such a familiar sight in the days when Dale Earnhardt drove for car owner Richard Childress, and appropriately enough Childress himself was clearly emotional after the race.
"Dale would have been proud," Childress said of his own grandson Austin's win, after surviving an exuberant congratulations from former F1, Champ Car and Le Mans driver Max Papis who has been working for the team as a coach for Dillon this season as well as part-time driver.
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