You may have been confused watching the final three laps of Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Confused as to why a car that looked like Austin Dillon‘s had any business being near the leaders who were jockeying for the win.
After starting second, Dillon was part of three wrecks during the race, including the 21-car blunder on the frontstretch with 27 laps remaining. Covered in tape and scrapes, the No. 3 Chevrolet looked like it would barely survive 500 laps at Martinsville Speedway, let alone be competing at the end of 188 laps on a superspeedway.
“I had guys climbing on the hood, beating the hood down,” Dillon said. “I had guys putting screws everywhere in the car to keep it together. It worked out for us.”
The third-year driver for Richard Childress Racing was not laps down and just trying to get out of the way. After 16 visits to pit road during the race and the ability to stay on the lead lap, Dillon was one or two good pushes on the frontstretch from celebrating his first Sprint Cup win.
“I actually think with it being so draggy and beat up, the 1 car (Jamie McMurray) hooked to us at the end and he just pushed me all the way through three and four, gave me a heck of a run,” Dillon said.
“Once I left that air, though, there wasn’t much I was going to be able to do once that happened. It was my one shot off of Turn 4, I tried it,” Dillon said.
“Halfway through this race, you’re not thinking it’s your day. All of a sudden when it comes down to it, we kept our minds in it, kept working on the car, came home with a third‑place finish.”
It’s Dillon’s best Sprint Cup finish in three years on the circuit and his third top-five of the season after earning just one in each of the previous two seasons. He heads to Kansas Speedway 10th in the point standings.
“I’m just proud of my guys,” Dillon said. “They had (16 pit) stops. They fixed the damage, never panicked.
“That’s something we struggled with this year, kind of panicking when something goes wrong. We’ve been meeting about it the last couple weeks. We can’t lose our minds because sometimes it’s just not your day.”