WELCOME, N.C. — Austin Dillon and car owner Richard Childress remain displeased with Daniel Suarez for contact that sent Dillon into the wall on the last lap of Sunday’s race at Phoenix Raceway, costing Dillon a top-10 finish.
Dillon was running seventh and had Suarez and Kyle Busch behind him going into Turn 3. Busch went low to get around Suarez, who dived down the track to block. There was slight contact between the two cars. Suarez collected the car but continued to drift up the track and made contact with Dillon’s car, sending Dillon into the wall.
Dillon finished 21st, the first car a lap down. Suarez placed ninth. Busch was seventh.
After the race, Suarez wrote on Instagram: “I’m so sorry for the 3 team, they deserved better today. Racing hard with him and the 18, I just got pushed into the last corner and into the 3.”
“I feel like I got the short end of it, for sure,” Dillon told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “I saw his Instagram, and he called (Monday) and texted me. I didn’t respond.
“I wish he would have just messaged me and said, ‘Hey, I screwed up.’ Instead he said he got pushed into it, or loose brakes, and I just hear excuses from him a lot.”
“I didn’t get the finish I wanted. I hate that. I didn’t think that the move he made, it wasn’t a smart move. We could have all went in there three-wide together and made it through the corner and whatever would have come out. We could have all come out of there OK. Instead, destroyed a race car we don’t have back here at the shop.”
Dillon questioned Suarez blocking Busch.
“You block a guy, you’re probably going to get sent,” Dillon said. “(Suarez) gets nudged going into the corner because he’s out of position. If he just holds his line all the way down the backstretch for seventh, eighth and ninth. I get blocking for the win, top three, whatever, but we’re all three going to finish in the top 10 right there if we all just run the corner.
“The move that he made down the backstretch blocking (Busch) low is what bothered me. Kyle got into him because he was blocking and then, I think, instead of spinning himself out, he used me to stop or even if he was out of control, the brakes are really good on these cars, maybe his were failing or what.”
Said Childress of the move by Suarez on the last lap: “It was an unnecessary crash at the end, running for (seventh) place and wreck someone for (seventh) place. That doesn’t say much for people that do it. I was just disappointed. He got nudged by Kyle a little, but he got the car straight. All he had to do was turn left. Instead he hit (Dillon). Disappointing.”
Had Dillon finished where he was running in seventh, it would have been his third result of 11th or better this season. He placed second at Auto Club Speedway and was 11th at Las Vegas. Dillon also was third in the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race last month. Dillon is 16th in the points.
“I’m super proud of RCR and ECR and all the guys,” said Dillon, who spoke after the unveiling of the Professional Bull Riders team, the Carolina Cowboys, that he’ll serve as general manager.
“The guys have done a great job with preparation to this point. We’ve just got to keep it up. It’s good to see Tyler (Reddick) and myself both having (strong starts). … We’re really close and knocking the door of a win. We keep doing that. It’s the best, I think, start to the year probably for us speed-wise that we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Childress also credits how well Dillon and Reddick, who finished third at Phoenix, have worked together.
“(Reddick) and Austin are working better together than any two drivers I’ve ever had,” Childress said.
And they’ll be together for at least next year. Childress confirmed Tuesday that Reddick will be with the team for next year.
“He’s under contract for next year,” Childress said.
Reddick is in his third season with Richard Childress Racing. Reddick led 90 laps and won both stages at Auto Club before a cut tire and contact from William Byron ended his chances of winning. Reddick placed seventh at Las Vegas and was third last weekend at Phoenix.