Austin Dillon: ‘A lot of guys in this don’t think we should be here, and I’m proud’

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DOVER, Del. – Exchanging hugs with team members, Austin Dillon pumped a fist skyward and shouted what could be the mantra for his No. 3 Chevrolet.

“That’s all we want – another shot!” Dillon exclaimed. “Next round, baby!”

The Richard Childress Racing driver was the surprise qualifier for the Round of 12 in Sunday’s Citizen Solider 400 cutoff race, but the biggest surprise might have been how Dillon advanced in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

He finished eighth – his first top 10 in seven starts at the 1-mile oval where his previous best was 20th – and emphatically proved his championship bid was deserving of continuing after a 400-mile race in which several title rivals faltered.

The former Xfinity and Craftsman Truck series champion, who hadn’t finished higher than 20th in the points during his first two seasons in Sprint Cup, said it simply ranked as the biggest moment of his career.

“It’s amazing,” said Dillon , who had entered the race five points out of the final transfer spot. “It’s huge for RCR. I want to keep upsetting these guys, man.

“There’s a lot of guys in this that don’t think that we should be here, and I’m proud to be that car that’s here.”

Dillon wrapped up the final transfer spot by comfortably finishing 11 points ahead of Tony Stewart, whose final shot at a championship ended with a nondescript 13th.

Dillon’s two biggest threats for advancement seemed to be Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, but the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevys both were out of contention before the midpoint. Larson, who had a five-point cushion on McMurray and Dillon entering the race, had a loss of power and hit the wall in a 25th-place finish. McMurray finished last with an engine failure.

Even if they’d been at full strength, though, Dillon still would have been a threat with a car that he said was good enough to finish in the top five. After a mediocre practices Friday and Saturday, his car “came to life in the race” – particularly after the second pit stop.

“That’s when we really made it all up,” he said. “We made the Chase through that run.”

It was a major turnaround from last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Dillon crashed his primary car, stated in a backup and flirted with a disastrous finish until rallying for 16th and setting up his impressive performance at Dover.

“We just stayed focused, and once again, God just blessed us because I’m still awestruck,” he said. “Things like this just don’t happen. I’m proud to be going on to the final 12 and having race cars that are capable of keep on moving on.”

It’ll get much tougher from here. Dillon will be an overwhelming underdog battling for one of eight spots in the next round against Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson.

It’s a formidable list.

But for Dillon, it’s another shot — and it’ll begin at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which Dillon says his is best track on the circuit.

“I’ve got three really solid tracks coming up,” he said of Charlotte, Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superpseedway (where he finished third in May). “I’m going to drive the wheels off it and have fun while we’re here.”

Starting lineup for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville

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Fords flexed their muscle during Saturday’s qualifying, grabbing the first four spots and six of the first 11 for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano will start from the pole, alongside Aric Almirola. Brad Keselowski will start in Row 2, alongside Kevin Harvick.

Row 3 will have Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up Row 4, while Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez will start from Row 5.

Click here for the full row-by-row Cup starting lineup.

Note that the starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

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Joey Logano holds off Aric Almirola for Martinsville pole

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Led by defending NASCAR Cup Series champion and pole sitter Joey Logano, Fords dominated qualifying, capturing the four top spots for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Logano covered the .526-mile oval with a speed of 97.830 mph, earning the 21st pole of his Cup career — with five of those now coming at Martinsville.

“You just have to be so precise and pushing yourself so hard in the corners, and a mistake is such a penalty,” Logano told Fox Sports 1. “It was awesome to get another pole here at Martinsville and hopefully we can top it off with … another win in the books.”

Aric Almirola was second fastest (97.643 mph), followed by Brad Keselowski (97.458), Kevin Harvick (97.832), Denny Hamlin (97.362), William Byron (97.202), Kyle Larson (97.098), Chase Elliott (97.053), Martin Truex Jr. (97.018), Daniel Suarez (96.830), Clint Bowyer (96.706) and Jimmie Johnson (96.573).

It appeared as if Almirola might take the pole, but Logano overtook him with just 34 seconds remaining in the final round.

“I just barely missed it by a little bit, and that’s all it takes,” Almirola told FS1. “We came up close, but just not enough.”

Kyle Busch failed to advance to the final round of qualifying. He’ll take the green flag Sunday from the 14th position in the 1,000th overall NASCAR start of his career. Just before Cup qualifying, Busch won the 201st race of his NASCAR career in the Truck Series race.

Click here for full qualifying results.


* The starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

* Daniel Suarez was penalized for speeding on pit road during the final round, but managed to bounce back for another try to earn the 10th starting spot.

* Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s first qualifying attempt was disallowed for speeding on pit road. He came back on-track to try again before the session expired, but could go no faster than 25th, failing to advance to the second round. “I didn’t feel I was going that fast (on pit road),” Stenhouse Jr. told Fox Sports 1. “Either way, our first or second time wasn’t good enough to make it. Definitely not the qualifying effort we wanted.”

* Cody Ware and Cory LaJoie did not make qualifying attempts, having to work on their race cars after being involved in wrecks during Saturday’s practice sessions.

* Sunday’s STP 500 (500 laps/263 miles) will take the green flag shortly after 2 p.m. ET (Fox Sports 1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

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Kyle Busch dominates en route to Truck win at Martinsville

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Less than a week after earning his 200th career NASCAR win, Kyle Busch began working on his next 200, capturing Saturday’s TruNorth Global 250 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

Busch dominated the 32-truck event, leading 174 of the 250 laps around the .526-mile paper-clip shaped oval, winning under caution after Reid Wilson spun on the final lap. It was Busch’s third Truck start and win of 2019 – he also won at Atlanta and Las Vegas – and the 54th of his career.

Busch has two more Truck races left on his schedule this year (NASCAR limits full-time Cup drivers to a maximum of five starts in the Truck Series per year): Texas next Friday and Charlotte in May. If he wins those two races, he will have won all five this year and six in a row dating back to his last Truck start of 2018 at Pocono.

What’s more, Busch now has seven wins in 11 starts across all three NASCAR series thus far this season. He goes for career win No. 202 when he makes his 1,000th career NASCAR start in Sunday’s STP 500 NASCAR Cup race.

“We made wholesale changes to this thing all weekend long, to make it faster,” Busch told Fox Sports. “We had enough tire at the end to hold them off.”

Ben Rhodes finished second, followed by Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, pole sitter Stewart Friesen, Myatt Snider, Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Bubba Wallace.

“We just needed a little something more, we got beat by the best in the business,” Rhodes said of Busch to Fox Sports. “Overall, it was a good, happy day. We’ve got some momentum going and we go on to the next race and see if we can beat him the next time.”

Click here for full results.

Click here for updated point standings.

The only significant caution of note in the race occurred with eight laps to go in the first stage, when the No. 12 Chevrolet of Gus Dean went up in flames – possibly from an oil fire. He was uninjured.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ross Chastain

WHAT’S NEXT: Vankor 350, March 29 at 9 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.

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Chase Elliott leads Hendrick Chevy sweep of top three in final practice

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Chase Elliott paced the final Cup practice Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, turning a 97.542 mph lap on the 0.526-mile oval.

Teammate Alex Bowman was second fastest, and Jimmie Johnson made it a sweep of the top three speeds for Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets, which have been winless since Elliott’s win last October at Kansas Speedway..

Austin Dillon and Paul Menard rounded out the top five in the 50-minute session.

The rest of the top 10 were comprised of Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones (the highest-ranked Toyota) and Martin Truex Jr.

Clint Bowyer, who won at Martinsville a year ago, was fastest in the first practice Saturday morning when Chris Buescher was the fastest Chevy in seventh.

The practice ended under a red flag after a crash for Cody Ware.

Qualifying for the STP 500 will be at 5:10 p.m. on FS1.

Click here for speeds during the final practice at Martinsville.