By David Morgan, NASCAR Editor
CONCORD, N.C. – The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season started with so much promise for Austin Dillon after winning the Daytona 500, but his hopes of contending for a championship to go along with that triumph came to a screeching halt Sunday on the new Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.
Entering the Bank of America ROVAL 400, Dillon had a 10-point advantage over the cut line and just needed a clean weekend to be able to advance on to the second round of the Playoffs. That didn’t happen.
Things started to go awry for the No. 3 team as soon as the first practice session of the weekend, when he became one of multiple drivers to make contact with the tire barrier at the exit of the backstretch chicane, causing a significant amount of damage to the left front of his Chevrolet.
“I’m trying to hit every corner here before the race starts (laughs). I have two or three of them out of the way, but there is a couple left,” Dillon joked afterwards.
The team was able to get the car repaired and he qualified 24th, but once the race started, Dillon’s luck took a turn for the worse once again.
Though he finished Stage 2 in sixth-place, the ensuing restart saw Dillon sideswipe the wall after trying to avoid Chris Buescher. The team was able to get him repaired and back on track, but a short time later, he blew a tire and impacted the wall once again.
This go around, there was no repairing it and his day and his Playoff hopes were done for.
“This is a crazy race,” said Dillon. “I was having a good run and the No. 37 (Chris Buescher), I went through (Turns) 3 and 4 and I knew I didn’t even make a mistake and I didn’t think that was how I was going to make a mistake. He flicked the wheel right in the middle of the corner, and when he did, I checked and smacked the outside wall and just couldn’t save it, there.
“We fixed it. And I came back up through there and jumped the curb and I think that’s what cut my tire down going into (Turns) 3 and 4.
“I should have just been more patient and waited for more attrition to go out. But I actually felt pretty comfortable and running good. It’s just hard to hold back in a treacherous race; and I guess I didn’t do what we needed to do.”