Top-10 qualifying effort puts Austin Dillon in strong position for Sunday

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

TALLADEGA, Ala.— Perhaps more than any other driver in Sunday’s Hellman’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, Austin Dillon will have to walk a tightrope.

Tied for eighth with Joey Logano in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, Dillon needs a strong finish to advance to the Round of 8, but he can’t afford a reckless move that could sacrifice his position in the points.

Dillon got off to a good start on Saturday, advancing to the second round of knockout qualifying and earning the ninth starting position for Sunday’s elimination race in the Round of 12 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

“I think it was a good run,” Dillon said after time trials. “We can do it from there. We had good speed, and hopefully it shows tomorrow in the race.”

Dillon, however, didn’t spend much time in the draft during Friday’s practice sessions. How his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet will perform in race trim remains to be seen.

“I really didn’t draft much,” he said. “It’s kind of going to be one of those things where we get out there and just feel it and see how it goes.”

But starting up front should help, even if qualifying is perhaps less important at superspeedways than it is at open-motor tracks.

“I think it does mean something, because pit selection is big, and also starting up front, so if there’s a wreck early, you’re kind of in front of it. I like being up front.”

That’s an appropriate mind-set, because Dillon needs to be near the front at the end of Sunday’s race as well as at the start. But Dillon has been there before. The grandson of team owner Richard Childress started second and finished third at Talladega in May.

Greg Engle
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.