By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After finishing 27th at the Kentucky Motor Speedway stand-alone race, Ty Dillon was on the outside, looking in, 15-points behind the Chase cutoff, and last in on the Chase Grid. The Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway looked as if it would be an up-hill battle with several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars in the Xfinity Series race.
Dillon was seventh fastest in the first practice session, and 14th fastest in the second practice session. The second practice session was cut short by rain.
In qualifying, Dillon was able to put his Red Kap/Sullivan Uniform Chevrolet Camaro seventh on the grid before the rain returned, ending qualifying after just one round.
Ultimately, the race was postponed because of the weather, forcing several of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars to have substitute drivers.
Just as the race began to get under way, Dillon was penalized to start from the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments. Dillon’s crew chief, Danny Efland, pleading his case to NASCAR to no avail, and Dillon dropped from seventh on the grid to 40th.
Dillon was quick to begin to move up through the field, climbing up to 25th by the first caution on lap two.
As the race restarted, Dillon continued to march through the field. Within 20 laps, Dillon had cracked the top 15. The run was not uneventful however as Dillon drifted high off of turn four, tagging the outside wall. Shortly afterwards, Jordan Anderson smacked the wall hard off of turn two, bringing out the second caution.
Dillon took four tires as the field pitted under caution, while race leaders Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones took only two tires.
The next green flag run was short-lived as Ryan Ellis cut a tire and slammed into both the outside and inside walls on the front stretch. This time, the bulk of the field elected to stay on the racing surface under the caution.
The restart gave Dillon the opportunity to pick off a few more positions quickly while the field was bunched together. Dillon made quick work of Jones, whose GameStop Toyota Camry began to develop handling issues. After passing Jones around lap 75, Dillon had finally reached seventh on the running order, the position he had originally been slated to start in.
The long green flag run continued as the pace of the race picked up. Soon, Dillon had found himself in the top five as a round of green flag pit stops began. Several drivers elected to stay on track as long as possible as the green flag pit stops continued.
As the round of green flag pit stops came close to an end, Justin Marks spun into the outside wall in turn two after contact with Suarez in turn one. The caution trapped several a lap down as Blake Koch, who had yet to pit, was the leader. However, Koch ran out of fuel under the caution, handing the lead over to Suarez, and putting several back on the lead lap.
Dillon restarted just inside the top five and slowly battled Ryan Blaney, who was subbing for Joey Logano, for the fourth position. With about 20 laps to go, Dillon finally passed Logano and set his sights on fellow Chase competitor Justin Allgaier. Dillon finally caught Allgaier with about 10 laps to go, and worked his way by the JR Motorsports driver.
There was not enough time to catch Suarez however, and Dillon took the checkered in second. This was Dillon’s eighth top five this season, and 15th top 10. Dillon is now just three points behind the Chase cut-off.
An excited Dillon was happy with his finish and looks forward.
“The car was really good, obviously we were motivated. I’m a little disappointed with the way everything started, but it was a good run for our Red Kap, Sullivan Uniform Chevy. It was a fun race. We would start off really good, and then I slapped the wall on the new addition to the racetrack. I thought it was going to mess us up, but we were still really good. It was a great day, what we needed. It takes off a little bit of the pressure going into Charlotte. If we do there, what we did today, we will be fine.”
Dillon now looks forward to the Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway where he will have to contend with more Cup regulars and fellow Chasers as he tries to rise above the Chase cutoff.