Austin Dillon leads Richard Childress Racing charge at Michigan

There’s no argument about who provided the surprise in Friday’s knockout qualifying session at Michigan International Speedway.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing teammate Ryan Newman posted the fifth and sixth fastest laps in the final round, respectively, marking a major surge in speed for the RCR tandem. Dillon had only one previous top-five start this season, and that came at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., in March, when he also qualified fifth.

“Yeah, that was solid for our No. 3 team,” Dillon said after his lap. “We felt like we had a good car throughout practice that was capable to turning a lap. We had one extra lap on our tires right there, so that was a really good lap for four runs on tires. We just had to keep tweaking on it.

“We didn’t ever have the balance quite perfect until that last run. I think the driver gave up a little bit in (Turn) 3 of speed. Proud of the guys. This is our highest qualifying, I think, all year long. So we’re really pumped about that. It’s good. We’ve got to get this momentum going before the Playoffs start. This is a good place to do it.”

Dillon is locked into the Playoffs by virtue of his Daytona 500 victory. Newman, who is 19th in the standings, likely must win one of the next four races to claim a Playoff spot.

Both Dillon and Newman still need to find more speed in race trim. They were 20th and 21st, respectively, in Saturday’s final Cup practice.

About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.