Las Vegas is clearly Austin Dillon's kind of town, the Richard Childress Racing driver capping a remarkable domination of this weekend's NASCAR Xfinity (formerly Nationwide) Series event with a comfortable victory in the third round of the 2015 championship on Saturday afternoon in Nevada.
Dillon led for 183 of the 200 laps of Las Vegas Motor Speedway on his way to his third win, which is his first in the series away from Kentucky Speedway as well as being his first return appearance in victory lane since September 2012.
Full race results from Las Vegas.
"It feels great, this is a big confidence booster for me," Dillon told Performance Racing Network
after the finish. "Our guys worked hard on this car all weekend and it was super fast and you just don't want to give anything away like that."
Dillon had earlier claimed pole position for the Boyd Gaming 300 - his 12th pole in 80 series starts - with a lap of 29.295s (184.332mph) on the 1.5-mile oval which saw his RCR team mate Brian Scott qualify alongside him on the front row. Dillon had swept Friday's practice sessions and had also paced the first round of qualifying, with only Scott's round 2 lap stopping Dillon from achieving a total whitewash for the weekend.
Unfortunately for the team, Scott's challenge was short-lived as an engine issue left him significantly down on pace compared with the others at the front, meaning that he soon fell off the lead lap. "Second engine problem of the weekend," sighed Scott after retiring from the race shortly thereafter. "I don't know what happened. "We have to figure out why two engines blew this weekend and why we had an engine issue last week in Atlanta."
Scott's exit cleared the way for Dillon to control the race and lead for all but one of the first one hundred laps of the race, which included yellows for Mike Bliss crashing in turn 2 on lap 12 and for Blake Koch hitting the wall in turn 4 on lap 54 shortly after a restart for a brief debris caution.
A round of green flag pit stops saw Joe Gibbs Racing pair Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones go to the front for three laps apiece, but Dillon was back in charge again on lap 113. Suarez was soon reporting smoke in the cockpit of the #18 and dropped off the lead lap, so that Dillon now had an impressive five second lead over Jones who was more closely pursued by Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Regan Smith and Brendan Gaughan.
A one hundred lap green flag stint was brought to an end when Mario Gosselin spun out in turn 2 on lap 159, and as so often happens it was a case of cautions breeding cautions with Dakota Armstrong hitting the wall in turn 1 at the restart, and then Erik Jones having an even harder encounter with an unprotected portion of the wall after clashing with Ryan Blaney who had got loose as they came out of turn 4 during the next attempt to get the race back underway.
"That is the worst spot to be in, pinned down on the bottom and have someone right on your door," said Blaney of the incident afterwards. "[I got] really loose on the bottom of three and four and unfortunately we hit him a little bit. I hate to see him wreck. That was unfortunate.
"I mean it is a racing incident but you never want to see a wrecked race car and you be a part of it. I know it is a racing deal and you just hate to be in that position," he added. "It happens but I don't like getting into things with people and I hate to see a race car torn up. I hate to see it. I hope he knows I feel bad about it."
With everyone now having made their final pit stops, that left Dillon still in charge of the proceedings with 22 laps to go at the restart ahead of Gaughan, Hamlin, Smith, Chase Elliott and HScott Motorsports's Brendan Poole. Blaney had dropped to the back of the lead lap after pitting to check for damage after his clash with Jones, but as the final laps ticked away it was the Penske #22 that worked its way through the field with alacrity and charged down the leader, the pair even making contact in the final laps as Blaney tried all he could to pass Dillon for the lead and Dillon likewise did all he could to block him.
"Got a good run off four coming to the white and he did what he needed to do and stopped my run," Blaney summarised. "Then I slipped a little in one and two on the white flag up top and couldn't get to his outside."
Blaney admitted that after the earlier incident with Jones, he didn't want to be seen as the cause of a second incident straight after: " I didn't want any more people saying bad things about me after I wrecked Erik. I wasn't going to move Austin that is for sure. He did what he had to do. He stopped my run. I didn't expect him to pull over. I wasn't going to move him to win the race."
In the end, Dillon was more than up to the challenge and as they crossed the line the longtime leader had a fairly comfortable margin of two thirds of a second over Blaney who hit the wall in the final charge to the chequered flag, but who still managed to cross the line well ahead of Smith, Hamlin, Elliott and Gaughan.
"Ryan Blaney made me earn it," Dillon admitted. "He was catching me at three-tenths a lap and I started wondering what I did wrong. It's fun but I'm glad he pushed me like that at the end."
"It was a good run for us," said Blaney of his second place finish. "I think it was a good call to come in and put four on it and tighten me up some more. I was really loose all day and we didn't have anything for the #33 all day and that gave us a shot at it. Hopefully next time."
"We had a good car all day, we just got jammed up at the start of the race and had a bad pit stop right after that that put us back to 15th," contributed third place man Regan Smith, who will be in action again on Sunday in the #41 Stewart-Haas Racing Cup car deputising for the suspended Kurt Busch. "We were able to chip away with it and get the runs we needed. We'll take it."
Roush Fenway Racing's Darrell Wallace Jr recovered from going a lap down at one point to finish in seventh place ahead of Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Daniel Saurez, while Aric Almirola was the recipient of the last free pass of the race and duly ended the day as the last car on the lead lap in 11th place.
"We were way too free and our balance was too free overall," said Wallace of his day. "We couldn't fire off on restarts and made a big adjustment there on the last one and over adjusted. We are learning as a team.
"We got some breaks there with the lucky dog and have some momentum heading into Phoenix," he added. "I am excited to see where things are going for us."
As a Cup series regular, Dillon is not eligible to claim Xfinity championship points. Instead, with his eighth place finish at Vegas it's Austin's brother Ty who moves into the lead in the Xfinity standings by six points over Roush Fenway Racing's Chris Buescher, who could manage only 14th place this weekend at Vegas. Daytona winner Ryan Reed is a further nine points back, just one ahead of Wallace.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Xfinity Series championship standings.
Get the latest NASCAR news straight to your Twitter feed! CLICK HERE to follow Crash.net's new dedicated NASCAR Twitter feed