Austin Dillon advances in Chase with peak performance at Dover

Austin Dillon (Getty Images)
Austin Dillon (Getty Images)
Austin Dillon (Getty Images)

DOVER, Del. – A catastrophe at New Hampshire could have knocked Austin Dillon out of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup—if the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing had let it.

But Dillon and crew chief Slugger Labbe came to the elimination race at Dover International Speedway with a fast car and the perseverance to score Dillon’s first finish of better than 20th at The Monster Mile.

In fact, Dillon ran eighth in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover, the second car one lap down in a race that ended with a 202-lap green-flag run and Martin Truex Jr. with a 7.527 winning margin. But for Dillon, who had to resort to a backup car a week earlier after a wreck in practice at New Hampshire, eighth was more than good enough.

Dillon advanced to the Chase’s Round of 12 by 11 points over Tony Stewart, who finished 13th on Sunday. While Stewart’s hopes for a fourth championship in his final season of Sprint Cup racing ended at Dover, Dillon grabbed the final berth in the Round of 12 and will continue in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.

“We wrecked a car in practice (at New Hampshire) and we had to use a backup car, an older car that wasn’t our primary that we wanted to have,” Dillon said. “We just stayed focused. And once again God has blessed us. I’m still awestruck, because 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 moving on. I have three really solid tracks coming up (Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega), and I am going to drive the wheels off of it and have fun.”

Dillon didn’t learn his running position in the points until the final laps of the race.

“I don’t care how many it was, whether it was 12 or 11 or 2 or 1, as long as we’re in the next round,” he said. “It feels good. It’s time to knock some more of these guys out, because we’ve got this opportunity, and I want to say that we’re going to be the underdog in this next round, so let’s go do it.”