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Dillon Survives Scare, Wins Camping World Title

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, November 18 2011

Austin Dillon gets a soaking after winning Camping World Truck Series Championship on Friday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Austin Dillon became the youngest-ever Camping World Truck Series champion Friday night when he finished 10th in the rain-shortened, season-ending Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The 21-year-old Dillon, who was a two-time race winner in 2011, won the title in just his second full season in the series. His championship came by six points over race-winner Johnny Sauter, who had started the race 20 points behind Dillon and made things a bit scary for Dillon at the end.

“How does it feel? Amazing, best feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life,” Dillon said.

“The championship, yeah, it’s amazing. You get to spray champagne everywhere. You’re on top of the world. It’s the best feeling in the world. You stink real bad. Darrell Waltrip told me the best feeling in the world is going home stinking and having a trophy in your lap, and we were able to do that. I think now I’m more nervous about making a speech Monday, but we’ll figure that out. I’ve got some time.”

James Buescher finished third in the final standings.

Denny Hamlin finished second in the race. Kevin Harvick was third, Nelson Piquet Jr. fourth and Joey Coulter, who was named rookie of the year, was fifth.

With qualifying being wiped out by rain, Dillon started from the No. 4 starting position in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Johnny Sauter won Friday's rain-shortened Camping World finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

He slipped backward in the field in the early going.

But after a competition caution on lap 20, Dillon began to move forward.

When the field went yellow with 33 laps to go, the leaders pitted. On the restart, Sauter had the lead and Dillon was second.

Sauter got the jump on the field on the restart and Dillon fell backward. Way backward as his truck seemed to be having trouble. With 20 laps to go, Dillon sat in 10th position. Ron Hornaday Jr., driving behind Dillon reported that oil may have been spraying out of the No. 3’s truck.

“I didn’t see the oil,” Dillon said, “but I know right behind the right front fender we were knocked in. I don’t know what happened. I didn’t hit anybody on the track, but I think it happened on pit road. We got really tight once I got back there, but I think it was more the conservative side when I was three wide. We were three wide in the middle, and to force a spot right there is not worth it.”

With 17 laps to go, rain began to fall and the yellow flag waved just as Denny Hamlin was moving outside of Sauter and into the lead.

“I knew I had a truck that could get around Johnny (Sauter), but I just wanted to be patient and wait until later stages of the race,” Hamlin said, “and also to ensure that we kept the third-place guy behind us and tried to use the draft. Strategy didn’t work out. It probably cost us a win today, but they told me one lap before the rain came that it looks like rain is coming, so if I got anything, I’d better go.

“That was my last-ditch effort on the corner to try to get around him. He slid up and got into us and we got in the wall, and it was one of those things. We were not in a position to really race him that hard anyway.”

The cars were brought into the pits and just seven minutes later, NASCAR officials announced that the race was over.

“I wish we would have finished I think we had a shot to win the race,” Dillon said. “We really had a fast race car.”

Austin Dillon heads toward the 2011 truck championship at the Ford 200 Friday night. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

Sauter  seemed cool with the race being called so quickly.

“This is the way we needed to go out,” Sauter said of getting the victory.

But he was also left to wonder if he could have caught and passed Dillon in the standings had the race stayed green or been restarted after the rain shower.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to come out of here doing what we needed to do essentially, and six points is a bummer,” he said. “You can think back on the season and dominating Kentucky, broken axle, 20 to go, leading the race; ORP, leading the race, flat tire, ground sway bar off; just the lane violation at Texas, that’s 22 points; six points at Pocono. You can go down the list, but everybody can.

“That’s just racing, and I’m just proud to be second in points. I’m proud to finish the season with a win, and I do want to congratulate Austin and everybody at RCR. What a phenomenal year, and they’ll be good champions.”

Also finding things hard to swallow after the race was Buescher. He had started the race eight points behind Sauter and had a fast truck early in the race. Perhaps one that was fast enough to win as he led 19 laps early.

But his chances ended when he was slammed from behind by Kevin Harvick.

“Yeah, you know,” Harvick said, “on the restart I got a good run and got underneath him and he ran me all the way down in the apron, and I wasn’t going to let off until I had to, and then we had to, and I got in the back of him in the middle of 1 and 2 just to tell him that I didn’t appreciate being run on the apron.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, November 18 2011
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