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Austin Dillon Hunts Down The Cup Pole In Texas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 5 2016
Austin Dillon will start this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway from the pole. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Austin Dillon will start this weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway from the pole. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – North Carolina native and avid outdoorsman Austin Dillon is taking on the look of a naturalized Texan, courtesy of one hot lap Friday evening around Texas Motor Speedway.

sprint-logo-08Dillon will start Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 12th annual AAA Texas 500 on-pole after touring TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval in 28.081-seconds/192.301 mph. Dillon, grandson of team-owner Richard Childress, bagged his third pole in 119 Cup Series starts, second of the season and first in eight races at TMS.

“Man, that’s huge!” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet SS. “It’s our second pole of the year, and I can’t be happier for RCR and everybody back at the shop. A lot of hard work and effort goes on. We missed the Chase by just two feet. We want to prove that we can win a race by the end of this year. This is big for us.”

Dillon, who typically wears a black cowboy hat, appeared for his post-race presser wearing a new white Stetson. He also now is the proud owner of a Henry Repeating Rifle, the prize for earning P1 in the Lone Star State.

“For me being an outdoorsman, love shooting and it’s probably the most special pole award that I could get as a driver,” Dillon said. “It felt like a win. That was cool. They do a really good job here at Texas of making you feel good when you accomplish something.  That’s great.

“I don’t know about the lap.  I changed my line a little bit looking at dartfish and it worked out for me.  I actually thought I hurt myself because I changed my line, but it actually made me faster through (Turns) 1 and 2.  I was watching (Kevin) Harvick’s line and I changed it to kind of mimic his and we went faster.  Just glad our falloff was good and we get to start from the pole and have the No. 1 pit stall.”

Meanwhile, Joey Logano was bummed about missing pole by an eyelash for the second consecutive weekend. Logano, one of seven Chasers attempting to join Jimmie Johnson in the Championship 4 lineup, hot-lapped in 28.087-seconds/192.260 mph to earn the outside of Row 1.

“That is really frustrating,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford. “Last week we missed it by eight-thousandths (of a second) and this week by six-thousandths. Second stings the most. That’s OK. Our team is tough and we showed speed in qualifying the last couple weeks. I think this AAA Fusion has a lot of speed in race trim, too.

“I’m excited. It’s a fun track to race and is really racy as well. We’re starting toward the front and this is a 500-mile race so I’m looking forward to it.”

Chaser Harvick _ 0-for-27 in Cup races at TMS _ will start third after a lap at 192.178 mph in his No. 4 Chevy SS fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I think the car was better than the decisions that the driver made,” Harvick said. “I went into Turn 1 and I didn’t get it all the way to the bottom and pointed in the right direction before the bump.  I got greedy and tried to leave the throttle down and then it hit the bump and then it got further out of the groove, so I had to wait longer.  I got through (Turns) 3 and 4 OK and to the green (flag) fine, but everybody on the Busch Beer Chevy did a good job.”

The remainder of the Chase candidates were led by Matt Kenseth, who will start seventh in the No. 20 Toyota Camry after a lap at 191.381 mph.  Carl Edwards, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, will start ninth after lapping at 190.988 mph. His Row 5 starting partner is Kurt Busch, who lapped at 190.543 mph in the No. 41 Chevy SS.

JGR’s Denny Hamlin will start 17th after his lap at 190.826 mph in the No. 11 Camry. Johnson _ who clinched the first berth in the Championship 4 via his victory at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday _ rolls off 19th after lapping at 189.520 mph in the No. 48 Chevy SS. A six-time Cup champion for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson and three contenders will race for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, reigning Cup champion and Chaser Kyle Busch saw a bad day get worse during time trials, when a water leak sidelined his backup No. 18 Toyota during Round 2 of knockout qualifying. Busch, winner of the 500-miler here on April 9, was forced into his backup ride after contacting the Turn 3 wall on his opening lap of practice Friday morning. The water leak added to the team’s to-do list before Saturday’s final practice at 12:30 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday’s 501-mile/334-lap event. Busch, currently fourth in points, will start 24th.

“I think it’s a byproduct of pounding the fence before we even completed a lap in practice,” said Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief. “In our hurry to change the motor and all the drive train afterwards, apparently we didn’t get the lower radiator hose completely clamped on the water neck out of the block and proceeded to dump all the water out of it on pit road after our first run.  We’re going to start 24th and get after them from there.”

Busch noted that competing in a backup is, for him, uncharted territory. “In years past I haven’t had that situation happen to me ever _ I don’t think I have ever crashed on the first lap of getting out there on the racetrack before,” Busch said. “We’ve right-sided cars before here or there and I always had a running joke with some of our guys at the body shop that comes to the racetrack on Sundays that anytime he has to put a right side wrap on a car, it meant good things. Going to a backup car, I don’t think it’s going to hurt us any.”

Busch added that his backup is set-up identically to the primary. “We rolled right off the truck and it was really, really close,” Busch said. “We of course still changed the practice springs from the primary car because we wanted the exact rates that the guys were looking for and things like that _ all four shocks come off. It’s essentially just riding on ride spring and shocks to and from the racetrack in the hauler.

“As far as everything else _ the control arms, the suspension, the way the rear end is set in the car and everything like that _ it’s all mocked-up exactly the same as the primary car. People always say there’s a reason why there’s a primary and a backup car because one’s better than the other. I would agree with that sentiment a little bit because I know what we do at Kyle Busch Motorsports. But I feel like here at Joe Gibbs Racing, it’s just like engines _ they’re all sent out of the building within five horsepower of each other and all these cars are built probably within five downforce numbers of one another.

“They’re very similar and I wouldn’t be worried for us that we’re at a disadvantage.”


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – AAA Texas 500

Texas Motor Speedway

Fort Worth, Texas

Friday, November 04, 2016

  1. (3)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 192.301 mph.
  2. (22)  Joey Logano (C), Ford, 192.260 mph.
  3. (4)  Kevin Harvick (C), Chevrolet, 192.178 mph.
  4. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.130 mph.
  5. (42)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 191.959 mph.
  6. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 191.523 mph.
  7. (20)  Matt Kenseth (C), Toyota, 191.381 mph.
  8. (21)  Ryan Blaney #, Ford, 191.272 mph.
  9. (19)  Carl Edwards (C), Toyota, 190.988 mph.
  10. (41)  Kurt Busch (C), Chevrolet, 190.543 mph.
  11. (24)  Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 190.429 mph.
  12. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 189.560 mph.
  13. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 191.232 mph.
  14. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 191.191 mph.
  15. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 191.049 mph.
  16. (88)  Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 190.894 mph.
  17. (11)  Denny Hamlin (C), Toyota, 190.826 mph.
  18. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 190.577 mph.
  19. (48)  Jimmie Johnson (C), Chevrolet, 189.520 mph.
  20. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 189.195 mph.
  21. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 188.659 mph.
  22. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 187.878 mph.
  23. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 19.198 mph.
  24. (18)  Kyle Busch (C), Toyota, 194.056 mph.
  25. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 191.144 mph.
  26. (6)  Trevor Bayne, Ford, 190.759 mph.
  27. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 190.732 mph.
  28. (95)  Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 190.523 mph.
  29. (44)  Brian Scott #, Ford, 190.328 mph.
  30. (34)  Chris Buescher #, Ford, 190.315 mph.
  31. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 190.215 mph.
  32. (7)  Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 189.907 mph.
  33. (83)  Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 189.900 mph.
  34. (38)  Landon Cassill, Ford, 189.069 mph.
  35. (93)  Ryan Ellis(i), Toyota, 188.495 mph.
  36. (23)  David Ragan, Toyota, 187.643 mph.
  37. (46)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 186.832 mph.
  38. (55)  Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 184.200 mph.
  39. (32)  Joey Gase(i), Ford, 182.063 mph.
  40. (30)  Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 180.741 mph.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 5 2016
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