NASCAR Xfinity: Austin Dillon takes lead late for win at Bristol
Austin Dillon celebrates in victory lane after winning the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 19, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Austin Dillon led the last four laps of the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol (Ten.) Motor Speedway on Friday night and claimed his first win of the season. It was his second Xfinity win of the season in 13 starts.
Although the win was Dillon’s second of the year, it was the first for crew chief Justin Alexander.
“I’m proud of Justin Alexander,” Dillon said. “This is his first win as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and this is our first win together in our first race together. So, it’s a great way to start.”
Justin Allgaier was the highest-finishing Xfinity Series championship-eligible driver, taking runner-up honors after running a lap down for a significant portion of the race. Kyle Larson finished third, Elliott Sadler was fourth, and Brendan Gaughan finished fifth after going a lap down two different times throughout the race.
All of Dillon’s laps led came in an overtime that extended the race from a scheduled 300-lap distance to 308 laps. The eighth and final yellow flag came with four laps remaining in the scheduled race distance when Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch made contact while racing for the lead. That contact sent Busch into the wall and out of the race.
After the incident, Busch accused Keselowski of being “a dirty racer.”
“It’s probably my fault. I haven’t heard from Kyle,” Keselowski said. “He got a really good run on me in (turns) one and two. The high lane in three and four had a lot of speed. He tried to get up and we were all right on top of each other. We both kind of got the raw end of it, he probably more than I did. I don’t think either of us wanted to make contact.”
Keselowski continued as the race leader but ran out of fuel under caution as the race ran into extra laps.
When Keselowski’s fuel tank ran dry, Dillon took the lead.
Larson dominated the race, leading 200 laps. After pole sitter Erik Jones and Darrell Wallace Jr. each led laps, Larson first got to the front by passing Jones on lap 32. Jones and Busch ran second and third to Larson through most of those laps led. After starting the race in the back because of an unapproved change, Busch quickly raced toward the front and got up to second by the halfway point of the race.
Jones’, though, saw his chance for a win fly out the window when he wrecked with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez with just over 50 laps remaining.
“I just made a mistake,” Jones said. “I basically turned the 19 (Suarez). It’s unfortunate. I feel bad for Daniel, and I feel bad for this team and my guys. The Reser’s Camry was really good, and it deserved a good finish and was probably good enough to win. I just threw it away on that restart and tried to make too much happen too quick. Just trying to get back in line behind them before the others got there, and I wasn’t clear. Just mad at myself.”
By that time, Keselowski had taken the lead through pit strategy. A few laps earlier, Keselowski and Allgaier, along with three other drivers, stayed out during a yellow flag while the rest of the field headed to pit road one final time. Keselowski restarted with the lead and Allgaier was fifth, while Larson, the first driver off pit road, restarted sixth.
Larson, with newer tires, got up to second on the restart after the Jones/Suarez wereck and challenged Keselowski for the lead. The two made contact, allowing Busch to take second from Larson, but Keselowski maintained his position up front.
Ty Dillon took a quick lead late in the race when he got by both Busch and Keselowski on a restart, but he got into the wall with under 10 laps to go, allowing Keselowski and Busch to reassume their positions in the top-two spots of the running order.
In the meantime, Austin Dillon moved into third, putting himself in position to take advantage of the contact between the top-two and Keselowski running out of fuel.
“It was interesting to have another lane down at the bottom of the track [because of changes made to the surface in an attempt to improve racing], and it ended up being a race on those last two restarts,” Dillon said. “At the end of the race, I listened to the advice of my grandfather (car owner, Richard Childress) on what lane to choose to restart, and I’m glad I did. It really worked out.”
Finishing sixth through 10th were Jeremy Clements, Wallace, Blake Koch, Brandon Jones and Corey LaJoie. For LaJoie, the 10th-place finish was his first-career top-10.
“That was a lot of fun out there tonight,” LaJoie said. “We struggled with being a little tight throughout the race, but the guys on this JGL Racing team stuck behind me, and we never gave up.”