By David Morgan, Associate Editor
TALLADEGA, Ala. – For the second day in a row, it was déjà vu for the No. 3 car.
After Jeffrey Earnhardt piloted a Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet to second-place in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, Austin Dillon was dealt the same outcome when he climbed behind the wheel of his RCR No. 3 car in Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega.
Coming down to the checkered flag, Dillon appeared to be well on his way to a top-10 result, running fourth on the bottom lane coming off Turn 4 and down through the tri-oval before chaos broke out the final dash to the finish.
When a bump from Ross Chastain sent Kyle Larson up the track, the seas parted in front of Dillon, allowing him to move up to second-place as Chastain advanced past race leader Erik Jones to take over the top spot and score his second win of the year.
“Most of the time I can tell you a lot about what happened there, but that was a lot in a short period of time,” Dillon said of how the finish played out.
“I don’t know what really happened up front. It was kind of shaded the way the sun was and for some reason cars kind of washed to the middle lane. I saw that yesterday in the booth that the bottom prevailed if you could keep your car down there. I don’t know if their runs were too big up front and they just got tight, but I had clean air on my nose and got to the bottom.
“[Chastain] was still there and I caught him with a pretty good head of steam. Was able to give him two shoves and it kind of shot him out there and he was able to race for the win and we were able to come home second.”
With Sunday’s finish, Dillon has accumulated three top-five and five top-10’s through the first 10 races of the season, currently sitting 13th in points heading into the summer and racing toward the Playoffs later this year.
“Really proud of all of our team,” Dillon said. “The Next Gen car, it’s different, man. You just have to kind of adapt as you go. Stay focused, stay positive.
“We’ve been really good at RCR. Reddick finished second last week. We’re knocking on the door, man. I’d really like to bring home some trophies for everybody back home in Welcome.”
Though the end result was another top-three finish on the season, there was some doubt that Dillon would even be there when race reached its conclusion after two cars employing ECR engines, including his teammate Tyler Reddick suffered mechanical issues and found themselves sidelined early in the event.
“That was nerve-wracking,” Dillon said of his teammate’s issues. “I was nervous. It kind of messes with you there. The 16 (Daniel Hemric) had the same issue and I got into the back of him there because he blew up. When the engine blows and you have no warning, it’s not a good place here at Talladega when there’s 30 other cars behind you to be thinking about that.
“So, for a long time, I was kind of monitoring who was out the back and trying to keep a gap in case something happened. Then at the end, you just throw caution to the wind.”