Austin Dillon Claims Overtime Victory In Food City 300
The finish of the Food City 300 was a blur.
Austin Dillon took his first and only lead in overtime of Friday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway after Brad Keselowski ran out of fuel while running under caution for a wreck that took out two top cars.
Heeding the advice of his grandfather, Dillon chose the outside lane on the subsequent restart and capably held off his challengers to earn his first career victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and eighth in the XFINITY Series in 111 career starts.
"The more and more I learn about these races is kind of one of those battles, a war of attrition, just staying in it and giving yourself a chance to win," said Dillon, who led the final four laps the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. "We were a fourth place car and did what we had to do to win. I think we did our job."
Justin Allgaier finished 0.227 of a second behind Dillon for his third runner-up finish this season and Kyle Larson finished third after leading a race and career-high 200 laps. Elliott Sadler finished fourth and holds a 51-point advantage over Daniel Suarez in the regular season points standings. Brendan Gaughan finished fourth and fifth.
"I would say we were probably a sixth or seventh place car tonight," Allgaier said. "We definitely made the most of the circumstances, that's for sure."
Larson restarted on the inside of the front row with Dillon on his outside and figured it was his final shot at a victory.
"I took off alright in the restart zone, got loose into (Turn) 1 and he was able to clear me off of (Turn 2)," Larson said. "We went into (Turn) 3 and he got really loose and as soon as I saw him getting loose, I was getting loose and then (Sadler) was able to drive around me and then (Allgaier) got to my inside and just kind of killed my momentum."
The caution that started the decisive chain of events took out the cars driven by Kyle Busch and Dillon's brother, Ty. Busch wrecked while trying to complete a pass for the lead on Keselowski with less than five laps remaining. Ty Dillon got caught in that mishap and finished 25th, one spot behind Busch.
Keselowski, meanwhile, was running on fumes. He had stayed out to gain track position earlier in the race, but his fuel didn't make it to the end. He finished one lap down in 12th place.
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers swept the top three spots in qualifying.
Erik Jones led the way with a lap of 127.903 mph that earned him his seventh pole this season and 10th overall in the XFINITY Series. It also was his third in five career NASCAR national series starts at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Busch qualified second and Suarez qualified third. Busch was sent to the rear of the field along with Allgaier and Matt DiBenedetto due to unapproved adjustments.
Jones led 31 laps but finished 33rd after clipping Suarez's left bumper as both drove into Turn 3. Both cars suffered significant damage. Suarez finished 30th.
"I just made a mistake," said Jones, who had won the spring race at Bristol. "It's unfortunate. I feel bad for Daniel. I feel bad for his team. I feel bad for my guys."
Drivers came away encouraged by their ability to utilize the upper and lower grooves in the turns.
The track polished the bottom groove of the track in the turns, applied resin to it and utilize a tire machine to improve grip. There were 16 lead changes among seven drivers, but there was two-lane racing throughout and even an instance when the leaders went three-wide late.
"The racing tonight was a lot better and really good compared to what we've seen here in the past," said Justin Alexander, who earned his first XFINITY Series victory as a crew chief. "We were just as good on the bottom as we were the top."