Running on fumes, trust between Austin Dillon, new crew chief delivered Coke 600 win

1 Comment

CONCORD, N.C. — Somewhere on the pit box for Austin Dillon‘s No. 3 Chevrolet, a light flashed on.

The light gave crew chief Justin Alexander the go-ahead to give Dillon the command he’d been waiting 67 laps – and to some extent 133 Cup races – to hear.

“Turn the switch on and go hard.”

There were three laps left in the Coca-Cola 600. The only thing standing between Dillon and his first Cup win was Jimmie Johnson, a seven-time champion and four-time 600 winner, and an increasingly empty gas tank.

Dillon, Johnson and a small group of other teams had decided to gamble to win the longest race in NASCAR. Dillon last pitted with 70 laps remaining.

How many laps short was the No. 3 Chevrolet after his last visit to pit road?

“Lucky No. 3,” Dillon said.

“It was about 2.7,” clarified Alexander, who was working with Dillon for the first time in the Cup Series. “We told him three.”

Dillon, who had never finished better than third before Sunday, went to work pressuring Johnson.

At the same time, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch had been buzzing through the other fuel gamblers with fresh tires and full fuel tanks, gaining roughly a second on the leaders with each lap.

“I really thought more guys were going to do this strategy, play this out,” Alexander said. “(Truex) was catching us fast. … They were really on pace to catch us and pass us. I knew it was going to be tough at the end. I knew we were going to have to run hard at some point to stay ahead of them.”

Following their pit stop, Dillon had run hard for the first 10 laps of the run, then went into conservation mode for 50 laps.

“You have one of two choices,” Alexander said. “You can figure out how much you need to save, how many laps you need to save, or you can run hard and hope there’s a caution comes out.”

The caution never came.

“A lot of those guys up front with the leaders, they just ran hard,” Alexander said. “With 50 to go we told him what he needed. He did his job.”

Part of that job was putting the pressure on Johnson.

“Seeing Jimmie, I mean, at that point I’m super focused,” Dillon said. “I’m not getting too anxious, ‘Oh, my gosh, we’re going to win.’ I’m trying to stay focused on what we had to accomplish.”

Driving the No. 3 Chevrolet made famous by Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dillon was trying to do what hadn’t been done since October 2000 when Earnhardt won his last race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Dillon’s boss and grandfather, Richard Childress, was also on the pit box with Alexander. Childress wasn’t sure of his grandson’s chances until a team engineer told him “We’re going to make it” after he asked.

“I knew we had a shot at the end,” Childress said. “When he came with two to go, I felt we had a shot.”

With his crew chief’s decision to go all the way, Dillon said Alexander “had ice in his veins tonight.” As the laps ran down, Dillon said “there wasn’t an abundance of over‑coaching” from over the team’s radio.

“You know what the hardest thing in this whole deal is? It’s trust,” Dillon said. “Trust is a lot of it. Justin trusted me he with the skills that he thought I had to fuel save.”

That trust was built over the course of 14 Xfinity races together dating back to last year. The two won their first race together in that series at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“The only thing about Justin is I never worked with an engineer, a calm guy,” Dillon said. “(He has a) totally different background than what I’m used to, working with. He fits. It’s cool. This week was relatively just smooth. We didn’t argue. We talked about the racecar. That’s what I needed.  I needed someone that wanted to teach me, talk about it, not tell me what was wrong with it.”

Eventually, it fell apart for Johnson and came together for Dillon out of Turn 2 with two laps to go. The No. 48 pulled up lame right as it exited the turn.

“That actually kind of took some pressure off me when he ran out truthfully,” Dillon said. “As soon as that happened, I went back to my (save) mode. They had just kind of cut me loose. I went in, caught him a bunch, then he ran out. ‘All right, back to the mode, you’re fine.’ Then bring it home.”

Less than five miles later, right as Dillon crossed the line to win the 58th Coca-Cola 600, he ran out of gas.

“Man, that’s what the 600 is about,” Dillon said. “There’s strategy, there’s staying in the race. It’s a lengthy one. You got to keep yourself in it to win it, and we did that.”

 and on Facebook

Kyle Larson scores second Ohio Sprint Speedweek win in three nights

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Kyle Larson scored his second win in the opening three nights of the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Larson won at Wayne County Speedway on Monday. Andrew Palker was second.

The victory is Larson’s eighth in the All Star Circuit of Champions.

Xfinity driver Christopher Bell was fifth Monday. Kasey Kahne placed 17th. Tony Stewart finished 24th in the 26-car field.

Larson won at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night.

Ohio Speedweek continues Tuesday at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio.

 

NASCAR America: Sport needs more races like Iowa Speedway

3 Comments

With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series taking Father’s Day weekend off, the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series took center stage at Iowa Speedway and put on a pair of shows that had drivers and NASCAR America analysts asking for more.

Late-race battles for the lead with Noah Gragson‘s unsuccessful last-lap pass on Brett Moffitt and Christopher Bell’s near miss at closing the distance on Justin Allgaier is something that has been missing from the Cup series for much of the season, and the action had a lot to do with the configuration of the speedway.

“That’s why this racetrack has become so popular,” Parker Kligerman said on Monday’s edition of NASCAR America. “Because it’s allowing this multi-groove racing like we’ve seen. And it’s got everyone discussing – kind of like Brad Keselowski was saying – why don’t we bring the Cup cars there? It would be awesome.”

Iowa Speedway was built with inspiration from Richmond Raceway and both tracks have characteristics of a short track and a speedway. It is something that Jeff Burton believes the sports needs to embrace.

“There is no doubt that this style of racetrack is what we need more of,” Burton said. “The sport needs more of it. And all this effort we’ve been talking about with the All-Star package. All that is an effort to try and create races like we saw on Saturday and on Sunday.”

For more, watch the video above.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Iowa recap, Scan All featuring Parker Kligerman

NBCSN
Leave a comment

Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races at Iowa Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

 On today’s show:

  • The Xfinity & Camping World Truck Series took the spotlight this weekend at Iowa Speedway. We’ll have highlights from both races and also dive into why some of the sport’s biggest names are pushing for Iowa to be on the Cup Series schedule.
  • Dale Jarrett and his father, Ned Jarrett, are champion drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers. But one member of the family – Dale’s son, Zach Jarrett – didn’t follow in their footsteps. As we come off Father’s Day, we’ll introduce you to Zach and his passion for another great sport.
  • Scan All is usually a Tuesday tradition, but today, we’re changing it up a bit. Listen in as our colleague, Parker Kligerman, hits the track in Scan All Parker!
If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Kyle Larson wants to compete in World of Outlaws full-time ‘before I’m 40’

1 Comment

Late last year Kyle Larson said his main career goal was to compete full-time in the World of Outlaws and that “NASCAR’s just the step to get there.”

Now the 25-year-old Cup driver has told the Internet that he hopes to compete full-time in World of Outlaws “Before I’m 40.”

In a lengthy Q&A session, Larson answered a fan’s question about the topic.

It was on the official World of Outlaws podcast in December where Larson expressed his desire to eventually transition to World of Outlaws.

“NASCAR is where I wanted to make it, but I would have been perfectly fine if I didn’t make it either,” Larson said. “I’d probably be on the Outlaw (sprint car) tour probably right now, racing and loving life … I would say racing on the World of Outlaws tour full-time is my main goal.”

A lot can change between now and 2033 – which would put Larson at 18 full-time Cup seasons after 2032 – so better stock up on those Larson race win diecasts while you can over the next 15 or so years.

Here’s other tidbits from Larson’s Q&A session:

Larson declared his stance on last year’s peaceful protests by NFL players regarding police brutality and unequal treatment of African-Americans that took place during the National Anthem.

Last September, President Donald Trump praised NASCAR in general and its “supporters and fans,” saying “They won’t put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag!”

That was after team owner Richard Childress and Richard Petty said they would fire any employees who kneeled during the anthem in protest.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. later tweeted in support of the protests and Jimmie Johnson also said he supported peaceful protests.

Larson’s response was noted by other NASCAR drivers.

If you’ve noticed Larson isn’t running against the wall as much this season, there’s a reason.

Larson believes the Cup Series needs more short tracks to garner more excitement and that the cars are not the problem.

Larson also expressed a desire for there to be mid-week races on the schedule.

Larson is not planning on competing in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, which he won in 2016.

Larson thinks a Truck race at Knoxville Raceway, the dirt track that hosts the Knoxville Nationals, would be worthwhile.

Larson also announced where he’ll be competing in some sprint races later this year.