On the outside looking in heading into Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega, Austin Dillon needed strong runs or a win to be able to advance onto the next round of the Chase, but when the checkered flag flew, he found himself still in the bottom four and eliminated from championship contention.
Dillon started the day tied with eventual winner Joey Logano in the points, with Logano having the tiebreaker as a result of a higher finish in the three races of the Round of 12, so the better his finish at Talladega, the better his hopes of advancing onto the Round of Eight would be.
Though Dillon ran well throughout the day, ending the race in ninth place, he finished right where he started in points, but this time he was tied with Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot, with Hamlin winning the tiebreaker as a result of having the highest finish of the two in the three races that made up the second round of the Chase.
“You know, it’s heartbreaking obviously. You need a spot, and it comes down to three one‑thousandths I think between the 43 car. I’m just proud of this team. We made it a full ‘nother round. Thought we were going to make it another one, but it didn’t work out for us. But thank to our partners, Dow, American Ethanol, everybody,” said Dillon.
“I don’t think we had it today to really mix it up up front. Might have waited a little too long. We tried to get track position one time, but it didn’t work out. I put my car in the places I thought it would work the best in that last lap and a half. My teammates stuck with me. I’m proud and thankful for them. Just missed it by a spot.”
“Another top 10 at a speedway it’s pretty nice to get that, but obviously not what we wanted. The No. 22 (Joey Logano) won and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) finished third, so it’s not what we needed, but we will take it and move on from here.”
The third year driver for Richard Childress Racing wasn’t predicted to make it past the first round of the Chase, but came within a hair of making to the third round. Unfortunately for Dillon, his championship hopes will have to wait until 2017.