Austin Dillon Wins Daytona 500 In No. 3 Car 20 Years After Earnhardt’s Historic Victoryby Camille Jones February 18, 2018 0 comments
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Twenty years ago, Austin Dillon was a kid celebrating a Daytona 500 win in Victory Lane with Dale Earnhardt Sr. On Sunday while driving Richard Childress Racing’s iconic No. 3 Chevrolet, 27-year-old Dillon held off the field and captured his first Harley J. Earl trophy at Daytona International Speedway.
The 60th running of The Great American Race finished in NASCAR Overtime. On the final lap, Austin Dillon made a late move on Aric Almirola. Dillon had momentum and didn’t slow down when Almirola went to block the race-winning move. Almirola lost control and crashed into the outside wall heading into Turn 3. Dillon held on for his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, capturing the third Daytona 500 win for Richard Childress Racing after Kevin Harvick also won the race in 2007 for the team.
“I said my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does,” said Dillon. “My Grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to perform because I have had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No 3. There is a lot of pressure behind that. But I’m willing to take that and go with it. I’m just thankful for all the people that support us along the way. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his family for letting us bring this number back. It comes full circle. I just can’t thank the Lord enough for this opportunity.”
Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finished second in his Daytona 500 debut and only his fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. Wallace’s runner-up effort marked the highest finish by an African American in the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott finished 13th in 1966. During his post-race press conference, Wallace became emotional after a hug from his mother. Wallace explained what his second-place finish meant while sharing the experience with his family.
“It’s a sensitive subject, but I’m just so emotional over where my family has been the last two years, and I don’t talk about it, but it’s just so hard, and so having them here to support me is ‑‑ pull it together, bud, pull it together,” Wallace said. “You just finished second. It’s awesome.
“I just try so hard to be successful at everything I do, and my family pushes me each and every day, and they might not even know it, but I just want to make them proud. Second is horrible, but it’s still a good day. But yeah, I just love my family, and having everybody here from my mom, my sister, my uncle, everybody here just means a lot.”
Denny Hamlin finished in third, side-by-side with Wallace as they slammed into the wall. Hamlin stated that he had a tire going down, which eliminated his control of his car and sent him into the side of Wallace. The collision provided a thrilling finish for the second and third positions.
“I blew my right front tire out when he came down and side drafted me,” said Hamlin. “So I didn’t have any control of my car because when he came down there, I was just on the yellow line. Nothing I could have done, and it blew my right front tire out with his fender.”
Joey Logano was able to snag the fourth finishing position, while Chris Buescher claimed a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500.
Finishing six was Paul Menard, followed by Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Michael McDowell and AJ Allmendinger rounding out the top-10.
The Great American Race race saw eight cautions for a total of 37 laps under yellow-flag conditions. There were three “Big One” incidents over the course of the event, scrapping many competitive race cars from the opportunity to contend for the victory.
With one lap to go in Stage 1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s No. 17 Fastenal Ford was tapped by Ryan Blaney’s No. 21 Menards Ford, getting the car loose before Stenhouse was able to make a huge save at the front of the field. Meanwhile, cars began colliding behind him as he made the save, triggering a multi-car accident that collected many rides, including those of Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, William Byron, Ty Dillon and others.
“It looked like the 17 (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.) just got freed up there by the 12 (Ryan Blaney), unfortunately,” Jones said. “We tried to check up and everybody got stacked up, and caused a big wreck.”
Seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson said, “”There was some great racing throughout. But unfortunately, many thought it was the black and white checkered flag and not the green and white checkered flag. On lap 59 to be throwing blocks like that just…a lot of wrecked race cars.”
On lap 103, the caution flag flew as Chase Elliott took a hard, head-on collision into the outside wall after a bump from Brad Keselowski. Several others piled into his spinning car, including Kasey Kahne and Danica Patrick.
“The guys on the whole team did a really good job,” Patrick said. “I know we pulled this together not that long ago, a month ago. That is a tall order to get a car ready for a superspeedway that is competitive. But, it was. I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car, and it being that green again. It just wasn’t meant to be today. I am proud-we raced the whole race other than a little bit at the end of that first stage when it looked silly with all the cars with tires and no tires. Other than that, we raced it and the car was competitive. That is all you can do.”
Patrick was making her final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start of her career. She was unable to finish the race due to the damage to her Premium Motorsports No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet.
A nudge from Blaney sent Kurt Busch spinning from the front of the pack with just two laps to go in the race. Busch spun furiously through the field, spinning back into Blaney, hitting Matt DiBenedetto and collecting others including Stenhouse, pole-sitter Alex Bowman, Ryan Newman and more.
“I was feeling the magic,” Busch said. “I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500. We found the right drafting lanes and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle it seemed like when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard and that killed a lot of my momentum. Maybe I should have just flung the 11, but you have to treat guys with respect and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it.”
Despite winning the Daytona 500, Dillon trails Blaney in the standings by six points.
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on February 25 at 2 p.m. ET. Live coverage will be found on FOX and the Performance Racing Network (PRN).
Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images
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