Crash.Net NASCAR News
Nationwide: First win for Austin Dillon
30 June 2012
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.
Kevin Harvick and Michael Annett finished in third and fourth ahead of Justin Allgaier and Sam Hornish Jr., with Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr the only other cars to finish on the lead lap. Elliott Sadler was the first man a lap down, having originally been passed on track by Dillon just after the midway point on lap 106.
Danica Patrick finished two laps down in 12th place, while Sprint Cup regular Denny Hamlin had a troubled evening of it in the Joe Gibbs Racing #18 when he first suffered from rear tyre chatter and then exited the race altogether with engine problems to be classified as finishing in 33rd place. His team mate Brian Scott also suffered an engine failure in the #11 with 24 laps to run. The JGR stable has been suffering from technical and engine gremlins in their Cup cars as well, and if alarm bells weren't ringing for the team before then they should be now.
The win puts Dillon at the top of the Nationwide Series points standings ahead of Elliott Sadler, but that's unlikely to last long as the #3 failed post-race inspection for having too low a ride height at the rear. That usually means a points penalty will be coming in the midweek adjudications, and with Dillon's lead over Sadler a mere 2pts it's almost certain to bump him back down to second place again.
But as long as it doesn't affect the win itself - and it won't - then Dillon and his grandfather won't care. The trip to victory lane and the entry in the record books are what really counts, and those are signed and sealed.
Full race results
as well as qualifying and practice times
and current NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings