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NASCAR Cup: Austin Dillon scores first win at Charlotte

Austin Dillon celebrates in victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway after winning the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

Austin Dillon celebrates in victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway after winning the Coca-Cola 600 on May 28, 2017 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).

By AMANDA VINCENT

Fuel was at a premium for Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and a few others in the closing laps of the Coca-Cola 600 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that started on Sunday evening but ran until the wee hours of Monday morning, thanks to an hour and 40 minute red flag for rain. Dillon and Johnson were among a handful of drivers that made fuel-mileage gambles after stopping during the final caution that came out on lap 328 of the 400-lap race. They stayed out when the rest of the field pitted under green in the final 35 laps. Johnson led the way until his fuel cell went dry with two laps remaining, handing the lead over Dillon. Dillon, then, led the final two laps and claimed his first-career win before running out of fuel, himself. His team had to push his car to victory lane.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet. I can’t believe it,” Dillon said. “I was just really focused on those last laps. My fiance wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in the first place, he will take you places you never imagined.’ And I never imagined to be here at the 600 victory lane. Praise the Lord and all these guys who work so hard, and my pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them. We’re in the Chase It’s awesome.”
Kyle Busch got by Martin Truex Jr. on the last lap to take runner-up honors, relegating Truex to third after leading 233 laps.
“That stings a little bit, but can’t say enough about the guys on the team and everybody in Denver,” Truex said. “Everybody on this Bass Pro Toyota did a heck of a job today. We just — we missed it a little bit on our last adjustment. I think if not for that, we probably could’ve gotten the 3 (Dillon). And then, lapped traffic is just so tough here. There’s a few guys out there that you don’t ever know where they’re going to be when you get to the corner, and it cost you so much time trying to pass them. Ultimately, that’s what got us. It is what it is.”
Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five, giving Toyota four finishes inside the top-five behind winning Chevrolet driver, Dillon. Toyotas also claimed three stage wins, with Busch winning stage one, Truex stage two and Hamlin the third stage.
Kevin Harvick started on the pole, but lost the lead to Busch on lap two. Harvick retook the lead on pit road during a lap 20 caution for a wreck that was set off by something flying out from under Jeffrey Earnhardt’s car and hitting the front of Chase Elliott’s car. Brad Keselowski slid through fluid on the track and made hard contact with Elliott’s car.
“I saw parts and pieces flying,” Elliott said. “I don’t know if he blew a tire or something, and I ended up something that he had on track. I hit it pretty hard. It was really solid, so I knew it was rough. I saw some fire, tried to get stopped and get out of the way, and I guess Brad got in my oil and couldn’t get slowed down, so I hate it. Man, it is so just ridiculous. I wish I knew what to do to try to fix things like that, but at the end of the day, you really can’t.”
Truex’s dominance began when he was among the first to pit during a cycle of green-flag stops that began on lap 63. With newer tires than the competition for a few laps, he was the leader by the time everyone else made their pit stops.
Previous leader, Harvick, wound up going down a lap because of an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on lap 125. He got back on the lead lap during a lap 141 caution for Matt DiBenedetto that quickly led to the red flag when lightning and ran arrived at the track. Harvick’s trouble wasn’t over, though, as he spun in oil put down by Ty Dillon’s car on a lap 244 caution.
Busch took the lead from Truex on lap 92, with eight laps remaining in the opening stage, to take the stage one win, but when the race restarted for stage two, Truex retook the top spot. Truex, then, ran up front throughout the second stage and claimed a stage win of his own.
Truex also led most of stage three before Hamlin got off pit road first during a caution on lap 292, with eight laps remaining in the stage,  when Kyle Larson suffered a tire issue that sent him hard into the wall. Larson had started the race in the back but quickly got toward the front and ran as high as second in the running order before his race-ending wreck.
“I got really loose into (turn) three and hit the wall and got a lot of damage, and the tire started to go down and then exploded in (turn) one,” Larson said. “I just hate it that I made a mistake, there in turn three and got in the wall. I was not even running hard up there. I just got loose, and then, I hit it and it ruined our day. I’m so hoping to hold onto the point lead, and then, go to Dover next week and try to do better.”
Busch also got out of the pits ahead of Truex, shuffling Truex back to third for the restart with just a few laps remaining in the stage. By the end of the stage, Kenseth had taken third from Truex, giving JGR all three positions in the running order at the end of the second-to-last stage of the race.
Busch took the lead at the start of the final stage, and Truex moved into second. Truex, then, took his final lead of the race on a restart following the last caution.
Finishing sixth through 10th were Kurt Busch, Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“A couple of guys beat us on fuel, but we got a top-10, there,” Earnhardt said. “The car got better last couple of runs. We made a lot of changes and some of them worked pretty good. We would have like to have run a little bit better than that, for sure. We think we should be running in the top-five every week as a team, so that is still not really good enough, but compared to last week, it’s a huge improvement.”
Follow Auto Racing Daily on Twitter @AutoRacingDaily or like Auto Racing Daily on Facebook (facebook.com/autorcngdaily). Amanda’s also on Twitter @NASCARexaminer and has a fan/like page on Facebook (facebook.com/nascarexaminer)

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Posted by on May 29, 2017. Filed under Breaking News,Featured,NASCAR. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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