By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
This time one year ago, Austin Dillon finished in seventh in the Coke-Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway after getting airborne and slamming into the catch fencing as the field came to the checkered flag. Dillon’s car was torn in half, flopped back onto the racetrack, where it was then hit by a spinning Brad Keselowski. Multiple pit crews including Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s and Casey Mears’ immediately ran out to check on the driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chervolet SS.
Fast forward to today, and Dillon has finished seventh once again. This time, Dillon thankfully had all four tires on the ground coming to take the checkered flag. It took a lot of good strategy and timing for Dillon to make it to the end of this year’s Coke-Zero 400.
The weekend started off well for Dillon as he was second fastest in only practice session and qualified sixth. Dillon also competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and qualified second, but was swept up in ‘the big one’ and got airborne before the roof flaps put his car back on the ground, on all four wheels.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Dillon stayed up front for much of the race, staying just ahead of the melee that wiped out nearly half of the field just past the halfway point.
Later in the race, Dillon skirted the outside wall as he slowed to avoid a spinning Tony Stewart. Dillon had little if any damage and continued on. The driver of the famous No. 3 car also narrowly avoided another late incident that swept up AJ Allmendinger, Carl Edwards, and Bobby Labonte.
On the final restart, Dillon lined up in the middle of the pack. Almost immediately, the pack became three-wide multiple rows deep, eerily similar to the year before. Through the beating and banging, somehow, the only driver to go spinning coming to the checkered was Kurt Busch, who spun off of the nose of Joey Logano.
After the race, Dillon happily tweeted about another top 10, his eighth of the season, and thanked his crew:
Proud of the boys another top 10 glad to be on all 4 tires. We will get one of these speedways races before to long. #AD3Nation
— Austin Dillon (@austindillon3) July 3, 2016
After tonight, Dillon might be the only driver to finish in any position in a race two years in a row in the two different ways, one on track, and one literally in the fence. Dillon now looks forward to next weekend at Kentucky Speedway where the same aero package used at Michigan a few weeks ago will be used, and a reconfigured racetrack leave a lot of unknowns.