NEWS: Sunday night was a full action packed night. Amid this full drama, Austin Dillon clinched his first career race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Dillon, passed an out-of-gas Jimmie Johnson two laps from the end for his first Cup victory. Johnson ran out of fuel on Lap 399, and Dillon was able to cruise to victory over Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who led the most laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third consecutive season.
The No. 3 Chevrolet owned by Dillon’s grandfather, Hall of Fame car owner Richard Childress, returned to Victory Lane for the first time since the late Dale Earnhardt won his last race on 15th Oct 2000, at Talladega. After Earnhardt’s death in the 2001 Daytona 500, Childress retired the number in NASCAR’s premier series until Dillon ran his first full season of Monster Energy Series racing in 2014.
Working for the first time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with crew chief Justin Alexander, Dillon was one of eight drivers who stayed on the track when the strongest cars in the Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway — the Toyota’s eventual runner-up Kyle Busch and third-place Martin Truex Jr. — came to pit road on Lap 368 of 400.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Dillon said in Victory Lane. “I can’t believe it. I was just really focused on those last laps.’
“And I never imagined to be here at the 600 Victory Lane. Praise the Lord and all these guys who work so hard, and my pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them. We’re in the playoffs. It’s awesome.”
Dillon, who led only the final two laps, had to restrain himself from using too much fuel in pursuit of Johnson.
Matt Kenseth ran fourth, followed by Joe Gibbs racing teammate Denny Hamlin, as Toyota claimed positions two through five.
After the subsequent restart on Lap 28, the rest of the first 100-lap stage ran caution-free, with Kyle Busch passing Truex on Lap 90 and pulling away to secure the playoff point accorded the stage winner.
Truex was leading when the caution flag flew for the third time on Lap 142 after Matt Di Benedetto’s No. 32 Ford slammed into the outside wall. Moments later, NASCAR red-flagged the race because of the threat of heavy rain and lightning in the area.
The rain arrived and drenched the track, forcing a delay of 1 hour, 39 minutes, 56 seconds before the cars started rolling again.
Truex dominated after a restart on Lap 176 and won the second stage going away. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota appeared headed for another victory in Stage 3 until series leader Kyle Larson blew a tire and pounded the wall on Lap 292.