Dil­lon ad­vances with peak per­for­mance at Dover

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL & NATIONAL SPORTS - By REID SPENCER

DOVER, DEL.

NASCAR Wire Ser­vice

— A catas­tro­phe at New Hamp­shire could have knocked Austin Dil­lon out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup—if the driver of the No. 3 Richard Chil­dress Rac­ing had let it.

But Dil­lon and crew chief Slug­ger Labbe came to the elim­i­na­tion race at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way with a fast car and the per­se­ver­ance to score Dil­lon’s first fin­ish of bet­ter than 20th at The Mon­ster Mile.

In fact, Dil­lon ran eighth in the Cit­i­zen Sol­dier 400 at Dover, the sec­ond car one lap down in a race that ended with a 202-lap green-flag run and Martin Truex Jr. with a 7.527 win­ning mar­gin. But for Dil­lon, who had to re­sort to a backup car a week ear­lier af­ter a wreck in prac­tice at New Hamp­shire, eighth was more than good enough.

Dil­lon ad­vanced to the Chase’s Round of 12 by 11 points over Tony Ste­wart, who fin­ished 13th on Sun­day. While Ste­wart’s hopes for a fourth cham­pi­onship in his fi­nal sea­son of Sprint Cup rac­ing ended at Dover, Dil­lon grabbed the fi­nal berth in the Round of 12 and will con­tinue in NASCAR’s 10-race play­off.

“We wrecked a car in prac­tice (at New Hamp­shire) and we had to use a backup car, an older car that wasn’t our pri­mary that we wanted to have,” Dil­lon said. “We just stayed fo­cused. And once again God has blessed us. I’m still awestruck, be­cause things like this just don’t hap­pen.

“I’m proud to be go­ing on to the fi­nal 12 and hav­ing race cars that are ca­pa­ble of mov­ing on. I have three re­ally solid tracks com­ing up (Char­lotte, Kansas and Tal­ladega), and I am go­ing to drive the wheels off of it and have fun.”

Dil­lon didn’t learn his run­ning po­si­tion in the points un­til the fi­nal laps of the race.

“I don’t care how many it was, whether it was 12 or 11 or 2 or 1, as long as we’re in the next round,” he said. “It feels good. It’s time to knock some more of these guys out, be­cause we’ve got this op­por­tu­nity, and I want to say that we’re go­ing to be the un­der­dog in this next round, so let’s go do it.”

Team Penske Fords ad­vance with solid runs

The No. 2 Fords of Brad Ke­selowski and the No. 22 of Joey Logano weren’t flashy, and they didn’t have the speed to challenge fron­trun­ners Martin Truex Jr. and Jim­mie John­son in Sun­day’s Cit­i­zen Sol­dier 400 at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

But Ke­selowski fin­ished fourth and Logano sixth as the Team Penske driv­ers ad­vanced com­fort­ably into the Round of 12 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And now that all driv­ers start the round with 3,000 points af­ter a re­set, Ke­selowski and Logano are back on equal foot­ing.

“Over­all, we did what we had to do,” Logano said. “The points are back to zero, and we can head to the next round and try to get a win. Ev­ery track is dif­fer­ent. Dover is ob­vi­ously a beast of its own. It’s a very cool race track, but ev­ery­thing is so dif­fer­ent com­pared to where we’re go­ing to go next week to Char­lotte and then Kansas and Tal­ladega.

“They’re all go­ing be a lot dif­fer­ent for sure, but we’ll take what we learned here for next year, and I’m sure there are some things that we can ap­ply to the next race, but most of it is kind of track-spe­cific.”

Last year, af­ter the first points re­set, Logano swept the three races in the Round of 12.

“It’s nice to have the re­set,” he said. “We weren’t bad off in points at all, but to have the re­set – we didn’t have the bonus points go­ing into this round, so it’s nice to be at zero with ev­ery­one and be able to try to get our­selves a win and get through or have some nice, solid days like we had to­day to give us some kind of cush­ion by the time we get to Tal­ladega.

“We’re ready to go, and now we’ll just wait to see what hap­pens.”

”Best in class” isn’t where Kyle Busch wants to be

Run­ner-up Kyle Busch fin­ished a whop­ping 7.527 sec­onds be­hind Martin Truex Jr., win­ner of Sun­day’s Cit­i­zen Sol­dier 400 at Dover In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

Though the Joe Gibbs Rac­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion that fields Busch’s cars gets its en­gines from Toy­ota Rac­ing Devel­op­ment (TRD), as does Truex’s Fur­ni­ture Row Rac­ing, and though the or­ga­ni­za­tions main­tain a tech­ni­cal part­ner­ship, Truex’s team has en­joyed an edge in speed of late, win­ning two of the first three races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Don’t think Busch hasn’t no­ticed. “I was just wait­ing to make my move,” Busch quipped af­ter the race. “I had him in my sights all day long – nah, I was just kid­ding. I had no­body in my sights all day long. I was in my own area code and he was off in his own zip code. ...

“We’ve got re­ally fast cars, just miss­ing the boat a lit­tle bit on some­thing the 78 team has fig­ured out. We fin­ished sec­ond here just like we did here last year at this race. It was a good points day for us, we were able to move on to the next round, and we can keep be­ing able to do that and just get our­selves to Home­stead. That’s where it mat­ters the most.”

Busch can make that as­ser­tion first-hand. Last year he won the Sprint Cup cham­pi­onship by win­ning the sea­son fi­nal at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way.

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