It was only a matter of time before he made it, but even so it was a surprise that Ty Dillon had required quite so little of it before making his first appearance in victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
"I'm just so happy and so excited," said the 20-year-old after the race. "I finally won a NASCAR race. It's been my whole life, and to finally do it means so much. Man, it's awesome."
He started from pole position for only the second time in his 17-race career in the series, and although he was immediately passed by Kyle Busch who had started alongside off the second row, Dillon was able to reassert control on the race on lap 10 and lead through to the first round of pit stops on lap 35.
The two drivers dominated the race for the rest of the evening under the floodlights of Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday evening, swapping the lead eight times in a single 25-lap stint and between them leading for 115 of the 130 laps of the race. Busch would control 75 of those, but Dillon's 40 laps led included the all-important final six of the race to the chequered flag.
Dillon's chance came when he managed to close the gap and pass Busch with six laps to go. Busch tried to counter-attack but banged the wall a couple of times while pushing hard, which left the #18 ailing and unable to do anything about the leader. Busch had to focus instead on holding off James Buescher, Parker Kligerman and Aric Almirola to the line, leaving the rookie ahead to claim the chequered flag.
"It's our rookie year, and we're battling for the championship," said Dillon on victory lane. "I'm just so happy for how hard we've worked."
"He's got the drive and spirit of a winner," said Dillon's car owner Richard Childress. "I couldn't be more proud from a grandfather standpoint, but I'm also proud of the way he raced, the way he searched for the groove to race on until he found it. He looked like a pro who's been doing it for a while."
The win puts Dillon just 9pts off the lead of the Truck Series championship that his brother Austin won in 2011 before moving up to the Nationwide Series this season.
Busch - making his first Truck Series start of 2012 after being persuaded to reduce his workload this season to allow him to focus on his Sprint Cup Series campaign - said that Dillon had just had the better truck on Friday. “I just got beat,” he admitted.
"He had a lot better handle on the bottom of the race track than we did, especially throughout the longer run," Busch went on to explain. "He could hold the bottom better than I could. There, when it's time to race, when a guy catches you, you've got to go somewhere else.
"You've got to go to the top, and you try to push and get sideways and hit the fence," explaining what it was that had resulted in the game-changing scrape against the wall. "There's no room to catch it up there. It was all I could do to push it as hard as I could."
There had been a total of three cautions during the race, two of them for debris on the backstretch on laps 31 and 106 respectively, the latter of which had helped Dillon tremendously by bunching up the field again after Busch had opened out a seemingly impregnable five second lead over the field.
The other caution was for a multi-truck wreck on lap 38 involving Tim George Jr., Ron Hornaday Jr. and Jason White. George and Hornaday mad the initial contact and collected White as they wrecked, and all three drivers were left heavily damaged and unable to continue after the accident, but there were no injuries to the trio.
Full race results
along with practice and qualifying times and championship standings