TALLADEGA, Ala. – Facing a throng of reporters and fielding numerous questions about being eliminated from the Chase, Austin Dillon could chalk it up only as not meant to be.
“Guess it wasn’t our day to do it; it wasn’t planned for us to do that,” Dillon said. “We tried. Didn’t really have enough speed all day to do much.”
The final transfer spot into the Round of 8 came down to the final lap at Talladega Superspeedway. Dillon, who finished ninth, lost out on a tiebreaker to Denny Hamlin, who finished third.
For drivers tied in the points, the tiebreaker is determined by the best finish in each round (the Round of 12 was comprised of Charlotte, Kansas, and Talladega). After both Dillon and Hamlin had finished outside the top 30 at Charlotte, Dillon rebounded for a sixth place at Kansas Speedway, which would have been enough to put him into the next round had he gained one more position at Talladega.
Hamlin, however, beat Kurt Busch by 0.006 seconds for third place. That tied him with Dillon at 3,078 points for the final transfer spot, and Hamlin advanced with the best finish of the round between them.
“We just couldn’t get another spot,” Dillon said. “We got a couple there at the end, on the last little straight, but (Aric Almirola) was the car we needed and didn’t work out.
“I knew we needed to be in the top 10 because Denny was up front. I was just trying to get as many spots as I could. I was forcing myself in places that probably really weren’t there but made it work. Needed a little bit more speed today and little bit more help if we could. But we tired.”
This season was the first time Dillon qualified for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Even with being eliminated, he is guaranteed to earn a career-best points finish. With their championship hopes now dashed, Dillon said he and his team would continue to fight for their first career win.
“It’s heartbreaking, but I’m proud of the guys,” Dillon said. “Proud of the season. Just wasn’t meant to be our season this year. Good Lord has another plan for us, and we’ll be back stronger than ever from this year next year.”