Austin Dillon Pilots Iconic No. 3 To Victory Lane For The First Time Since 2000by Hunter Thomas May 29, 2017 0 comments
CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Dillon drove the iconic Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet to Victory Lane for the first time in 17 seasons on Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The No. 3 DOW Salutes Veterans Chevrolet team was competitive all night long, but a late-race gamble on fuel, resulted in Dillon’s first career win in NASCAR’s premier series. Jimmie Johnson also gambled on fuel, but he ran out of gas in the closing laps. Dillon was able to inherit the lead and cross the finish line before Kyle Busch caught him. The last time that the iconic car won a race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was when Dale Earnhardt Sr. won at Talladega Superspeedway in October of 2000.
“Unbelievable and to have my grandson Austin Dillon, everybody, I just can’t thank enough people,” said car owner, Richard Childress when asked what it felt like to see the No. 3 car back in Victory Lane for the first time since Earnhardt Sr.’s 2000 Talladega win. “I just can’t stop thanking everyone and I know my great friend and everybody here Dale Earnhardt is smiling down tonight.”
Dillon became the first North Carolina-born driver to win a points race at Charlotte Motor Speedway since Dale Jarrett in 1997. Dillon is the 10th driver to win their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Charlotte. He earned the victory in is 133rd series start.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Dillon said. “I can’t believe it. I was just really focused on those last laps. My fiancé wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.’ 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 Chase. It’s awesome.”
For the second time this year, Kyle Busch has come up short of a victory to finish second. Busch, the driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Red, White & Blue Toyota led on five occasions for 63 laps during the Coca-Cola 600. He piloted of the stronger cars throughout the night, but despite the competitive performance, he still wasn’t able to score the team’s first victory of the season.
Frustrated after the race, Busch said, “I’m not surprised about anything. Congratulations”.
Finishing third was Martin Truex Jr. in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota. Truex Jr. entered the weekend as the defending race winner, and on Sunday, he led a race high of 233 laps. In the past two Coca-Cola 600s, Truex Jr. has led a combined 625 laps. He currently leads the standings by five points over Kyle Larson, who finished 33rd.
“They told me a couple of those guys were going to stretch it,” Truex Jr. said. “There was no way we could do it. We were kind of on our own agenda, stick to the plan. I just focused on my driving, trying to do the best job I could.”
Completing the top-five was Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.
Kurt Busch finished sixth, followed by Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After competing in his final Coca-Cola 600, Earnhardt Jr. said, “A couple of guys beat us on fuel, but we got a top 10 there. The car got better last couple of runs. We made a lot of changes and some of them working pretty good. We would have liked to have run a little bit better than that for sure. We think we should be running in the top five every week as a team, so that is still not really good enough, but compared to last week it’s a huge improvement.”
During the 400-lap race, there were 23 lead changes among 10 drivers. There were also nine cautions for 53 laps.
The only multi-car accident occurred on lap 21, when Brad Keselowski ran into the back of Chase Elliott on the frontstretch. Read More: Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski Crash Out Early In The Coca-Cola 600
On lap 143, Matt DiBenedetto brought out the caution, but nearly simultaneously, the rain came. With 200 track service workers, 12 Air Titans, 10 jet dryers and three vacuum trucks, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway was able to dry the track and get the 58th running of the Coca-Cola 600 back underway in 1 hour, 39 minutes and 56 seconds.
On Sunday, June 4, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action at Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism. Live broadcast of the race will be found on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and the Motor Racing Network (MRN) at 1 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Hunter Thomas/TheFourthTurn.com