Richard Childress Racing's Austin Dillon claimed his fourth NASCAR Xfinity Series win of the year on Friday night, his sixth in total from 94 career starts to complete a sweep of this year's Xfinity races at Charlotte Motor Speedway having already been successful at the 1.5-mile track in the spring.
"It's pretty cool to say we've swept both races at our home track," he said afterwards. "This is a special win for us not only as a team."
The event was being held in support of NASCAR's annual campaign to raise funds for breast cancer research, something close to Dillon's own heart. "I know two people close to me that are battling breast cancer, and this win is for them. It's an honour to be able to bring home this trophy for them. I hope it brings a few smiles when they're having a rough day."
CLICK: Full NASCAR Xfinity Series race results from Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Not that the evening had looked to have got off to the greatest start for Dillon, who had to jump out of the way when one of the pre-race fireworks landed on his car to singe his firesuit before he leapt away and pulled his girlfriend (Tennessee Titans NFL cheerleader Whitney Ward) to safety.
"I was actually praying, and the fireworks hit me in the back," Dillon said, able to laugh about it later. "I didn't know if it was a sign from God or what, but it got me going right there with a firework in the butt."
Earlier on Friday evening, pole position for the Drive for the Cure 300 was taken by Dillon, his sixth pole of the year and the former series champion's 16th pole in total. His final round time was 29.424s (183.524mph) meaning that he beat JR Motorsports' Kasey Kahne to pole by six hundredths of a second.
Once the fireworks drama was over and done with, Dillon led the field to the green flag, Dillon was able to able to hold on to the initial lead but was then passed on lap 6 by Kahne who proceeded to control the action for the next 34 laps. With Dillon complaining that the #33 was getting tighter as the opening stint went in, he dropped to third behind Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch who took up pursuit of Kahne and duly went to the bottom line to take the lead on lap 40 shortly before a debris caution and the first round of pit stops.
With the exception of five laps during a cycle of green flag pit stops at the midway point of the 200-lap race, Busch remained in charge for over one hundred laps until the next caution for debris on lap 143, during which time Busch broke Mark Martin's series record for the total number of laps led (1258). Although Busch won the race off pit road to lead at the green flag, he had a poor restart and dropped behind his JGR team mate Erik Jones and found himself in the sights of Kasey Kahne, who then made contact with the rear of the #54 and sent Busch into the wall in turn 4 to put him out of the race.
"Kyle got mad because he got into it with his team mate off turn 2 on the start," Kahne explained. "That shuffled him back to where I was, so I was racing to get by him. He's down on me in the corners, and I'm up against him on the straightaway, just doing normal stuff.
"Then he starts beating on me down the front and the back, and then I overdrove turn 3 and got into him," he added. "But I don't know why he started beating on me. I think he was frustrated because his team mate kind of used him up and got away from him a little bit coming off turn 2.
Over the JGR team radio, Busch called Kahne's move "The most obvious dump I've ever seen," but he left the circuit without making any further statements to the media.
With the dominant players of the race thus far - Busch and Kahne - now both out of contention for the race win, Dillon was able to take the lead from Jones and drive away from the field so that by the end of the race he was almost three seconds clear of Jones while Penske's Brad Keselowski picked up third place ahead of JGR's Daniel Suarez and JR Motorsports' Regan Smith. Dillon's brother and RCR team mate Ty Dillon completed the top six at the line.
"We didn't start the race very strong," admitted the race winner. "I told Danny [Stockman, crew chief for the #33] we were really tight and needed to make some adjustments. He made great calls and took big swings at it. Those guys made this Rheem Chevrolet fast. We pulled away there at the end, it was great."
In the Xfinity Series championship standings, a seventh place for Roush Fenway Racing's Chris Buescher - despite losing time in the final pit stop when the #60 got entangled with its air hose - means that he extends his lead over reigning champion Chase Elliott to 24 points.
"The good thing is we gained a couple points, so there is that," said Buescher. "We should have been a top five car, but everyone is human and things happen. I make mistakes out there, too, so I can't be hard on them. Everyone is human, but we'll work on cleaning it up a little bit.
"I'm gonna try to work on a couple of things, but it wasn't a bad day for us at all. We're right there with them. We're following them around the track. If we would have had a couple more laps we could have gotten them back there, but that was the end of the race and it was a lot of fun."
Regan Smith and Ty Dillon still firmly in connection. Now dropping someway back and over one hundred points off the leader is Darrell Wallace Jr. followed by Elliott Sadler (Roush), Daniel Suarez (JGR) and Brian Scott (RCR). In the owner standings, the Penske #22 driven this week by Brad Keselowski now has an 82 point lead, with the Roush #60 moving ahead of the JGR #54 following Kyle Busch's accident this week.
The next Xfinity race of the season is the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 17.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and the latest Xfinity Series championship standings.
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