Austin Dillon leaves Michigan with career day, looks ahead to Bristol


Seventy-two races was all it took for Austin Dillon to have his best performance in the Sprint Cup Series, but even then he admits he was taken to “school a few times” during his first significant exposure to the front of the pack.

Dillon finished Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 in fourth for his second career top-five finish. The first came in his 31st start, last year’s Coke Zero 400, during his rookie season for Richard Childress Racing.

While he’s seen success in the Camping World Truck and Xfinity Series, it wasn’t until Sunday’s race, which Dillon started from the rear due to an engine change, that Dillon led more than eight laps (19) and played a part in the drama of NASCAR’s top circuit.

“I felt like I’ve been able to prove that I can compete with these guys in the Xfinity Series and don’t know where it was in the Cup Series,” Dillon said. “We made some good changes and the finishes are starting to happen. From the Trucks and Xfinity, it takes a little while once you start having fast cars and running up front to learn how to race with these guys, and today was really good for me.”

One of the “good changes” Dillon attributed his career day to was the decision in June by Richard Childress to replace crew chief Gil Martin with Richard “Slugger” Labbe. Strategy by Labbe – not pitting during the competition caution – put Dillon in the lead early in the race. Dillon stayed there for 18 laps.

“I think we were probably the second‑strongest car and then we just didn’t adjust much,” Dillon said. “We haven’t run up there a lot, and it’s hard to change a car that’s capable of staying up there. So if I did it over again, I’d probably start freeing (it) up a little earlier. You know, his car was really good down the straightaway.”

On ensuing restarts, it would be Matt Kenseth, a 34-time Sprint Cup winner, who triumphed, leading a race-high 146 laps.

“I feel like I learned a lot,” Dillon said. “Matt took me to school a few times up front when I was slicing with him, and I’ll take that in the notebook and see if I can’t learn from it the next time up front.”

Dillon, averaging a finish of 21st this season, hopes his next visit to the front comes Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Through three races at Bristol, he has an average finish of 16.3.

“I just wish we could have started this just a little bit earlier, but we’ve got a couple good races left for us,” Dillon said. “Really looking forward to Bristol. We (were running) third there with four to go and ran out of fuel. So if we can go to Bristol and compete, I think we can win there. I’m definitely looking forward to that race.”

In that race, four-time champion Jeff Gordon will be sporting the “rainbow warriors” paint scheme, emulating the height of his 23-year career, which ends in November. That will close the chapter on a significant part of NASCAR history.

Dillon is still trying to establish the beginning of his and knows there’s more to it than one top-five finish.

A lot of hard work is going to go into it,” Dillon said. “Jeff just didn’t get here from running up front. He worked hard to get there. I’ve got a lot of work to put in. This is not just a thing you get in a race car and go fast. You’ve got to put a lot of effort behind it, and I’ve learned that the last year and a half. Hard work and effort behind it and focus really helps you.

“I’ll do my best to do that. I’d love to fill a void there when Jeff leaves.”

NASCAR weekend schedule at Gateway, Portland


NASCAR’s top three series are racing this weekend in two different locations. Cup and Craftsman Truck teams will compete at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, and the Xfinity Series will compete at Portland International Raceway.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)

Weekend weather

Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 87 degrees during Truck qualifying.

Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 88 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 93 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Sunday: Mostly sunny with a high of 92 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the Cup race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – Noon — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, June 4

Garage open

  • 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race (240 laps, 300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)


Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 73 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – Noon — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • Noon – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Cup playoff standings after Coca-Cola 600


The severe penalty to Chase Briscoe and his Stewart-Haas Racing team Wednesday for a counterfeit part dropped Briscoe from 17th to 31st in the season standings. Briscoe now must win a race to have a chance at the playoffs.

The penalty came a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for his retaliation in wrecking Denny Hamlin in Monday’s Coca-Cola 600. Elliott is 28th in the points. The 2020 Cup champion also needs to win to have a chance to make the playoffs.

Ten drivers have won races, including Coca-Cola 600 winner Ryan Blaney. That leaves six playoff spots to be determined by points at this time. With 12 races left in the regular season, including unpredictable superspeedway races at Atlanta (July 9) and Daytona (Aug. 26), the playoff standings will change during the summer.

Among those without a win this season are points leader Ross Chastain and former champions Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Elliott.

Here’s a look at the Cup playoff standings heading into Sunday’s Cup race at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Drivers in yellow have won a race and are in a playoff position. Those below the red line after 16th place are outside a playoff spot in the graphic below.

NASCAR issues major penalties to Chase Briscoe team for Charlotte infraction


NASCAR fined crew chief John Klausmeier $250,000 and suspended him six races, along with penalizing Chase Briscoe and the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team 120 points and 25 playoff points each for a counterfeit part on the car.

The issue was a counterfeit engine NACA duct, said Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, on Wednesday. That is a single-source part.

MORE: Updated Cup playoff standings

The team stated that it accepts the L3 penalty.

“We had a quality control lapse and a part that never should’ve been on a car going to the racetrack ended up on the No. 14 car at Charlotte,” said Greg Zipadelli in a statement from the team. “We accept NASCAR’s decision and will not appeal.”

Asked how then piece could have aided performance, Sawyer said Wednesday: “Knowing the race team mentality, they don’t do things that would not be a benefit to them in some way, shape or form from a performance advantage.”

The penalty drops Briscoe from 17th in the season standings to 31st in the standings. Briscoe goes from having 292 points to having 172 points. He’ll have to win to make the playoffs. Briscoe has no playoff points at this time, so the penalty puts him at -25 playoff points should he make it.

Briscoe’s car was one of two taken to the R&D Center after Monday’s Coca-Cola 600 for additional tear down by series officials.

The penalty comes a day after NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for wrecking Denny Hamlin in last weekend’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Championship Weekend returns to Phoenix in 2024


Phoenix Raceway will host the championship races for the Cup, Xfinity, Craftsman Truck and ARCA Menards Series in 2024, NASCAR announced Wednesday.

The races will be held Nov. 1-3, 2024. The Cup season finale will be Nov. 3, 2024. The only other Cup race for 2024 that has been announced is the Daytona 500. It will be held Feb. 18, 2024.

Phoenix Raceway has hosted the championship finale for Cup, Xfinity and Trucks since 2020. Chase Elliott won the Cup title there in 2020. Kyle Larson followed in 2021. Joey Logano won the crown there in 2022.

This year’s Cup finale at Phoenix will be Nov. 5 and air on NBC.