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Austin Dillon Rolls To Easy Win In Vegas

| , RacinToday.com Monday, March 9 2015

Austin Dillon ran away from the field in Las Vegas. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

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Austin Dillon played the part of “high-roller” Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during a near- runaway victory in the Boyd Gaming 300.

Pole-sitter Dillon led a race-high 183 of 200 laps around LVMS’ 1.5-mile quadoval en route to the third victory of his NASCAR XFINITY Series career. Despite that performance, Dillon was forced to hold off Ryan Blaney’s late-race charge on four fresh Goodyear tires to secure his first series win since the 2012 season.

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro fielded by Richard Childress Racing. “They worked hard all weekend and gave me a fast Chevrolet. Nick (Harrison, crew chief) made some great calls during the race and kept us out front. I can’t thank everyone at RCR and ECR Engines enough for all their hard work.”

Restarting fifth with 21 laps remaining, Blaney made up a deficit of more than 1.5 seconds _ forcing Dillon to repeatedly block him during the last three laps. Blaney ran out of room in the final corner, his No. 22 Ford turning sideways and tagging the outside wall as Dillon sped to a margin of victory of 0.664-seconds.

Harrison’s best call arguably was not telling Dillon that Blaney was on fresh tires, the result of pitting after contact with Erik Jones on Lap 173. “There at the end, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” Dillon said after his first Vegas victory. “You got to do whatever you can to win. Our car was dominant all day, and to give one away like that would have been heartbreaking.

“I hadn’t heard in my ear all day that somebody was catching me, and he was catching me at about three-tenths (of a second) a lap. And that was all I had. The other good thing is that my crew chief made sure no one told me that he had (fresh) tires on, so I wouldn’t second-guess myself. I just thought I was getting slower _I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.”

The 2013 series champion and now a Sprint Cup Series regular, Dillon is the first driver since 2002 to win an XFINITY race at LVMS from pole, and fourth overall. “When you have something like this, you just don’t want to mess it up,” said Dillon, a grandson of team-owner Richard Childress.

Ironically, Blaney all but apologized for finishing second after contact with Jones sent his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry into an outside wall that was not protected by a SAFER Barrier. Jones was uninjured in the crash, but Blaney admitted the incident played into his strategy during the closing laps.

“Yeah, I mean it’s a racing incident but you never want to see a wrecked race car and you be a part of it,” said Blaney, driver of the No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang. “I know it’s a racing deal and you just hate to be in that position. That’s the worst spot to be in, pinned down on the bottom and have someone right on your door. It happens but I don’t like getting into things with people and I hate to see a race car torn up. I hate to see it. I hope he knows I feel bad about it. We have to move on eventually.”

Subsequently asked if he was tempted to bump Dillon out of the lead, Blaney said, “No. I didn’t want any more people saying bad things about me after I wrecked Erik. I wasn’t going to move Austin. That’s for sure. He did what he had to do. He stopped my run. I didn’t expect him to pull over. I wasn’t going to move him to win the race.”

Blaney, in fact, said he was surprised he was able to chase Dillon down after the incident with Jones in Turns 3 and 4. “I knew until we got to him (Dillon) that we would be OK with clean air,” said Blaney, who passed fourth-place finisher Denny Hamlin on Lap 190 and third-place Regan Smith on Lap 193 before charging after Dillon. “We got there sooner than I thought. Got a good run off (Turn) 4 coming to the white and he did what he needed to do and stopped my run. Then I slipped a little in (Turns) 1 and 2 on the white flag up-top and couldn’t get to his outside.

“It was a good run for us. I think it was a good call to come in and put four (tires) on it and tighten me up some more. I was really loose all day and we didn’t have anything for the No. 33 all day and that gave us a shot at it. Hopefully, next time.”

Reigning series champion Chase Elliott finished fifth followed by hometown favorite son Brendan Gaughan, series rookie Darrell Wallace Jr., Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Daniel Suarez. Ty Dillon, Austin’s younger brother, took over the driver championship lead by six points over Chris Buescher, who placed 14th.

The series continues with Round 4 Saturday at 4 p.m. (EDT) with the Phoenix 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The race will be televised by FOX with live broadcasts on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Satellite Radio, Channel 90.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, March 9 2015
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