Austin Dil­lon earns im­prob­a­ble win

Cecil Whig - - SPORTS - By REID SPENCER

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

— A re­mark­able chain of cir­cum­stances gave Austin Dil­lon the chance to win Fri­day night’s Food City 300 NASCAR XFIN­ITY Series race at Bris­tol Mo­tor Speed­way.

Dil­lon took full ad­van­tage, com­plet­ing two har­row­ing over­time laps to edge sur­prise run­ner-up Justin All­gaier in a race that went eight laps be­yond the sched­uled dis­tance at the ul­trafast .533-mile con­crete short track.

Dil­lon didn’t take the top spot un­til Lap 305 of 308, when Brad Ke­selowski’s No. 22 Ford ran out of fuel while lead­ing un­der the eighth and fi­nal cau­tion of the evening.

Driv­ing a No. 2 Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing Chevro­let that slipped no­tice­ably in Turn 3 on the white-flag lap – just af­ter cross­ing the over­time line at the en­trance to the cor­ner – Dil­lon nev­er­the­less held off All­gaier, third-place fin­isher Kyle Lar­son and fourth-place El­liott Sadler, who swapped po­si­tions be­hind the win­ner on the two over­time laps.

Dil­lon crossed the fin­ish line .227 sec­onds ahead of All­gaier, who won a drag race against Lar­son off the fi­nal cor­ner. And in Vic­tory Lane, Dil­lon stayed busy count­ing his bless­ings, not the least of which was a shout-out to fi­ancée Whit­ney Ward, who re­cently ac­cepted Dil­lon’s mar­riage pro­posal.

“It was just a war of at­tri­tion,” said Dil­lon, whose new crew chief, Justin Alexan­der, got his first vic­tory. “We had a pretty good car – maybe not the fastest car – but the car that won. I made a mis­take in (Turn) 3 com­ing to the white, but, luck­ily, ev­ery­body else got loose…

“It was just a war of at­tri-

BRIS­TOL, TENN.

tion, and we did what we had to do to win.”

Ke­selowski’s empty fuel tank was sim­ply the last domino in a se­quence of events that put Dil­lon in po­si­tion to win for the first time at Bris­tol – or on any short track for that mat­ter – the sec­ond time this sea­son and the eighth time in his ca­reer.

On Lap 243, pole win­ner Erik Jones spun Joe Gibbs Rac­ing team­mate Daniel Suarez in Turn 3, trig­ger­ing a six-car wreck that sent both Jones and Suarez to the garage.

“I just made a mis­take,” Jones said rue­fully. “I basi- cally turned the 19 (Suarez). It’s un­for­tu­nate. I feel bad for Daniel and I feel bad for this team and my guys. The (car) was re­ally good, and it de­served a good fin­ish and was prob­a­bly good enough to win.

“I just threw it away on that restart and tried to make too much hap­pen too quick. Just try­ing to get back in line be­hind them be­fore the oth­ers got there, and I wasn’t clear. Just mad at my­self.”

The piv­otal wreck that fol­lowed was even more dra­matic. Ke­selowski and Kyle Busch were fight­ing for the lead on Lap 296 when Busch tried a pass in the lower lane and slid his No. 18 Toy­ota up the track in front of Ke­selowski’s Mus­tang.

Un­will­ing to sur­ren­der the po­si­tion, Ke­selowski main­tained his mo­men­tum off the cor­ner, clipped the right rear of Busch’s Camry and sent both cars into the out­side wall. Ke­selowski was able to con­tinue, but Busch blew a tire and shot up into the out­side wall in Turns 3 and 4, col­lect­ing Ty Dil­lon, younger brother of the race win­ner, who was run­ning be­hind – and who had led briefly af­ter a restart on Lap 287.

“Kyle is, of course, real good at this track, and he was quite a bit faster,” Ke­selowski said. “I was just try­ing to hold him off any­way I could. He got a good run on the bot­tom, and the bot­tom groove was just a lit­tle bit faster in (Turns) 1 and 2 than it was in 3 and 4. He knew that and made a re­ally smart move and got up next to me, but I had a big run on exit and he wasn’t quite clear.

“I knew he needed to come up be­cause 3 and 4, like I said, the bot­tom groove wasn’t as good. He knew he needed to come up and there just wasn’t enough room. I was al­ready there and it clipped him in the right rear. I don’t re­ally know what hap­pened from there, but it was tough. We were bat­tling re­ally hard and def­i­nitely didn’t want to see it end that way.”

When the race went past its posted dis­tance and Ke­selowski had is­sues pick­ing up fuel un­der the yel­low, that left Dil­lon to hold off Lar­son, who had led 200 laps at that point.

With ad­vice from his grand­fa­ther and team owner, Richard Chil­dress, Dil­lon picked the out­side lane for the fi­nal restart and pulled out a vic­tory that would have seemed an un­likely out­come just 50 laps ear­lier.

GETTY IM­AGES FOR NASCAR

Austin Dil­lon cel­e­brates in Vic­tory Lane af­ter win­ning the NASCAR XFIN­ITY Series Food City 300 at Bris­tol Mo­tor Speed­way on Fri­day in Bris­tol, Tenn.

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