By Seth Eggert, Staff Writer
Even with a penalty causing him to start from the rear of the South Point 400, Austin Dillon flew under the radar at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. With nine of the 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grid drivers involved in incidents, Dillon quietly kept his nose out of trouble.
Dillon finished just outside the Top-10 after being forced to climb through the field throughout the race. Halfway into the first stage, his No. 3 Dow Frost Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 finally caught up to Jimmie Johnson. Dillon quietly picked off position after position, taking advantage of the widespread misfortune among the Playoff drivers.
The race was dominated by Martin Truex, Jr. and eventual winner Brad Keselowski. Although Dillon qualified 18th, a pre-race penalty for unapproved adjustments forced him to start last. Put behind the proverbial ‘8-Ball’ before the race even began, the Richard Childress Racing driver was unable to make it inside the top-10 at the end of either stage.
Although Dillon finished better than many of his Championship rivals, he was disappointed with the finish,
“Yeah, I’m proud of our guys. They brought a really fast race car. We gave up a lot of track position throughout the day, not just from starting in the back, but on pit stops we really struggled. But, you know, proud of the effort. I felt like I got out all I could out of it. Bummer at the end. We needed a top 10. Eleventh is good but racing my teammate to the line there I thought we would get him, but we didn’t.”
After the events of Las Vegas, Dillon is 10thon the Playoff Grid. He now sits 56-points behind Truex, the Championship Points Leader. Dillon is just three points ahead of fellow Chevy Racing driver Alex Bowman, who holds the final transfer spot for the Round of 12.
Looking ahead to next weekend’s race at Richmond Raceway, Dillon’s odds show he will have an uphill battle compared to his Playoff rivals. Among active drivers at Richmond, he has the 21st-best average finish. In the five most recent races at the Virginia short track, Dillon is 15thin average finishes with a driver rating of 72.
In Dillon’s career at Richmond, he has yet to earn a top-15 finish in NASCAR’s Premier Series. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, he has two top-five and seven Top-10 Finishes at the 0.75-mile track.
Now Dillon, crew chief Justin Alexander, and the entire No. 3 team will look to improve dramatically in the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway as they hope to earn a victory and lock themselves into the Round of 12.