NASCAR: Austin Dillon snaps slump, wins at Texas Motor Speedway
FORT WORTH, Texas — Kyle Busch’s car chopped deep swaths of grass out of the infield. Jimmie Johnson received two pit road penalties. Ryan Blaney had the fastest car, yet was nowhere to be found when it came time to settle the NASCAR Cup O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
An unpredictable race got the unpredictable winner it deserved.
Austin Dillon was mostly irrelevant throughout the day, but outraced teammate Tyler Reddick in three restarts over the final 15 laps to win in front of an estimated 20,000 fans in blazing heat on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.
The oldest grandson of his team owner, Richard Childress, Dillon won for the third time in 247 career races, and the first time in the last 88. With Busch and Joey Logano on the second row, looking for opportunities to pass, Dillon was tested on each of the final three restarts.
“I had to have confidence,” said Dillon, who needed intravenous fluids in the infield care center after the race. “We had a good car, it just didn’t run good in traffic.
“You saw when we got out front, we had a hot rod.”
Richard Childress Racing has struggled to compete with its multi-car counterparts in the Cup Series the last few years, but the 1-2 finish with Dillon and Reddick was invaluable on Sunday. Dillon locked himself into the playoffs, and Reddick moved within 14 points of the cut line.
RCR hadn’t had a 1-2 finish since Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton pulled it off at Talladega in 2011. The win was the 109th for RCR, 67 of which are credited to Dale Earnhardt and 23 more to Kevin Harvick.
On a pit stop with 23 laps to go, Dillon’s team took only left-side tires and Reddick got fuel only while drivers behind them took four tires.
“The call won it,” Dillon said. “Every time we put on four, we couldn’t keep up. We were better on two. I was tight, and lefts just freed me up.”
Of course, that strategy goes against typical racer thinking.
“I could not believe they stayed up there,” said Logano, who finished third. “I was pretty certain when I was fourth that we’d have something for them. I thought they were sitting ducks up there.”
Dillon didn’t have his grandfather at the track. Childress watched from the team’s command center in North Carolina, but he called into the post-race press conference to share his excitement.
“For him to beat the best of the best today,” Childress said, “that shows where RCR is with both of our drivers.”