LOUDON, N.H. – A wreck in practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the last thing Austin Dillon needed.
After a 14th-place finish last Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in the first race of the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dillon needs a strong run at New Hampshire to escape the bottom four in the standings.
But with the Round of 16 elimination race looming Oct. 1 at Dover, Dillon had his weekend start catastrophically at the Magic Mile, site of Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
On his ninth lap in opening practice at NHMS, the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet posted his fastest lap at 132.813 mph, but that was only 32nd quickest among the 40 drivers. Dillon ran only one more lap before flattening the right side of his Chevy against the outside wall and damaging the car beyond repair.
“I just tried to get some speed in the car, and it didn’t work out, truthfully, is what I think happened,” Dillon said. “I don’t know. The brakes were bothering me a little bit throughout the day, but I think it was just me trying to get some.”
Out rolled the backup car, which couldn’t be readied before practice ended. Consequently, Dillon was faced with the prospect of qualifying the car – at a relatively flat speedway where track position is of paramount importance – with no seat time whatsoever.
Consequently, the hole Dillon dug for himself at Chicagoland suddenly became the Grand Canyon.
The good news for Dillon is that the race for the top 12 in points is extremely tight. Carl Edwards is ninth in the standings, but just five points ahead of Dillon and Kevin Harvick, who are tied for 13th and just one point behind 12th-place Tony Stewart.
With such a tightly bunched field, Dillon can move up with a strong showing at New Hampshire, but he can’t afford another glitch in his program. He qualified his back-up car 29th late Friday.