Austin Dillon Takes Playoff Spot From Truex With Daytona Win

Austin Dillon won at Daytona in a wild weekend of attrition as Martin Truex Jr was eliminated from playoff contention.
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing
Austin Dillon, Richard Childress Racing

It was a lengthy weekend at Daytona as rain cancelled qualifying, postponed the race to Sunday, then delayed the end of the race for more than three hours. In the end, it was well worth the wait for Dillon and the Richard Childress Racing team. The victory puts both cars into the playoffs, a feat that the team was unable to pull off here last year. Tyler Reddick, already locked into the playoffs, pushed his teammate across the finish line, in an epic one-two finish for the organization.

Austin Cindric was poised to sweep the two races here after his triumphant Daytona 500 win to start the season. The rookie was leading in the final few laps when Dillon nudged him out of the way. Cindric was able to save his Ford Mustang, but his shot at winning was gone. The Team Penske driver did rally to finish 3rd, with Landon Cassill and Noah Gragson surviving to finish inside the top-five.

"What a crazy race," Dillon said. "I’ve got to thank my teammate, everybody that makes this thing happen. We’re in the playoffs! There was a lot going on there at the end. I knew if I waited too long, I was afraid somebody would wreck behind us. So I wanted to go ahead and get the lead. I had a big run to him and I knew I had a teammate back there and we were in pretty good shape."

This was the fourth career win for Dillon, and his second at Daytona. "I felt like I had good Chevy teammates behind me. If I could get the lead, Cindric would not be able to hold onto the draft. We’ve done it in practice enough to know that you’ll lose the tail end of the draft, and it’s hard to get back to it."

Dillon became the 15th different winner this season, leaving just one spot open for a driver to get in on points. That duel between Ryan Blaney and Truex, was decided by the slimmest of margins. Blaney edged out Truex by just three points for the final playoff position.

Truex was the top-finishing Toyota today, but was not able to keep pace with the leaders with his damaged race car.

"Just not fast enough to keep up with those guys," Truex said. "We got the restart we need and got into a decent spot there. Just couldn’t keep up. I was wide open the whole last run there. It’s a shame. It stinks, but just too much damage to have enough speed to do what we needed to do. Hindsight is always 20/20. We gave away plenty of points throughout the season, but it is what it is."

Blaney finished in 15th but battled all day after being collected in an early crash.

"We’re very fortunate," Blaney said. "Our fate was not really in our hands. All we could do is try to keep working on it and fix it to where we could make laps. Thankfully, we were able to get enough cars throughout the wrecks that we kind of just kept moving up and were able to get in. That’s definitely a lot more stressful than I wanted coming into here, but I just got to give a lot of props to the team for fixing it and sticking with it all day. That’s why you do it. Your day can start off like that, and you just stay with it and stay in the game. And it was definitely beneficial for us. Appreciate them. Now we’ll go race for a championship."

2022 Coke Zero Sugar 400 - Race Results
Pos Driver Team Manufacturer
1Austin DillonRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
2Tyler ReddickRichard Childress RacingChevrolet
3Austin CindricTeam PenskeFord
4Landon CassillSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
5Noah GragsonBeard MotorsportsChevrolet
6Cody WareRick Ware RacingFord
7BJ McLeodLive Fast MotorsportsFord
8Martin Truex JrJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
9David RaganRick Ware RacingFord
10Kyle BuschJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
11Bubba Wallace23XI RacingToyota
12Joey LoganoTeam PenskeFord
13Ty Gibbs23XI RacingToyota
14Alex BowmanHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
15Ryan BlaneyTeam PenskeFord
16Cole CusterStewart Haas RacingFord
17Erik JonesPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
18Ty DillonPetty GMS MotorsportsChevrolet
19Harrison BurtonWood Brothers RacingFord
20Kevin HarvickStewart Haas RacingFord
21Aric AlmirolaStewart Haas RacingFord
22Ricky Stenhouse JrJTG Daugherty RacingChevrolet
23Todd GillilandFront Row MotorsportsFord
24Daniel SuarezTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
25Denny HamlinJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
26Daniel HemricKaulig RacingChevrolet
27Chris BuescherRFK RacingFord
28Justin HaleyKaulig RacingChevrolet
29Chase ElliottHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
30Corey LaJoieSpire MotorsportsChevrolet
31Chase BriscoeStewart Haas RacingFord
32Michael McDowellFront Row MotorsportsFord
33Ross ChastainTrackHouse RacingChevrolet
34William ByronHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet
35Brad KeselowskiRFK RacingFord
36Christopher BellJoe Gibbs RacingToyota
37Kyle LarsonHendrick MotorsportsChevrolet

The first major moment of the race came five laps from the end of the first stage when Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones got together while batting for the lead. Blaney was collected in that crash, as well as Christopher Bell and Brad Keselowski. The damage to Blaney's No. 12 Mustang were severe, but he was able to eventually make his way back onto the track, running multiple laps down.

Several drivers were facing a "win and you're in" scenario but saw their playoff hopes go up in smoke at some point in the race. Keselowski was taken out early in that first major wreck. The restart for the final stage delivered another big crash, triggered when Reddick got into Michael McDowell. That collected Truex, William Byron, Ross Chastain, and Chris Buescher.

Austin Dillon Takes Playoff Spot From Truex With Daytona Win

Neither Keselowski or Buescher were able to come up with the win today to get one of their cars into the playoffs. "It’s frustrating, but whenever your season is down to one race, you’ve got a lot more going on than just that one race," Keselowski said. "Our team put a lot of effort into getting this car ready. They brought a great car, so I hurt for them. We had a shot to run for it today and never got a chance to show it."

With 36 laps to go, another big crash at the front of the field took out many more contenders. Chase Briscoe got loose and a nudge from Alex Bowman sent him spinning across the field. The No. 14 car caused a chain reaction that involved Bubba Wallace, Dillon, Harrison Burton, Cole Custer, and Todd Gilliland. Jones was later collected a second time when he tangled with Joey Logano with 30 laps remaining.

Then came the biggest moment of the race. Entering Turn 1 on the restart, rain began to fall which caused nearly everyone to slide up the track and into the wall. The entire field was nearly collected, but Dillon emerged from the wreckage, going from 16th to the lead as the rain began falling harder.

The race was red-flagged as mother nature continued to disrupt the event. NASCAR stated their intent was to finish the race, which only had 21 laps remaining. Once the weather began to clear and the track was drying, the next concern was how many cars would still be able to run?

Austin Dillon Takes Playoff Spot From Truex With Daytona Win

Several teams spent a lot of time working on their cars before the conclusion of the race began. As drivers began dropping out of the race, Blaney kept collecting points as he moved up in the running order. During the red flag, it was Blaney that was on the outside looking in, as Truex passed him in points and Dillon was still being scored as the leader.

Once it became apparent that the race would not be called, it became clear that the playoff situation was far from settled.

Dillon was the only driver inside the top-ten that could have advanced to the playoffs with a win. If any other driver would have won the race, both Blaney and Truex would have made it, and Dillon would have been out. It was a clean but aggressive end to the race, which just didn’t work out in Martin’s favor.

Austin Dillon Takes Playoff Spot From Truex With Daytona Win

The 16 drivers have now been identified, and playoff points have been calculated to determine seeding.

Kyle Larson started today’s race from pole position but his day was short-lived. His No. 5 Chevrolet quickly developed an engine issue, and he was forced to go to the garage. After having no practice, qualifying rained out, and the race being postponed to Sunday, Larson logged just 14 laps and his weekend was done. The reigning series champion dropped a couple of spots and will now start the playoffs as the fourth seed.

Logano won Stage 1 today and vaulted to the two seed, with Chastain as the three seed. Byron begins as the fifth seed and is followed by Hamlin, Blaney, Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Bell, Kyle Busch, Briscoe, Daniel Suarez, Cindric, Bowman, and Dillon.

The regular season is now a thing of the past. The playoffs begin next weekend at Darlington. The Round of 16 consists of races at Darlington, Kansas, and Bristol. Coverage for the Cook Out Southern 500 begins at 6 PM ET on USA Network.

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