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Fuel-Thrifty Austin Dillon Wins The 600

| , RacinToday.com Monday, May 29 2017

Austin Dillon and his crew celebrate their victory in the annual 600-mile race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Andrew Coppley)

Austin Dillon saved just enough fuel to put No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet back in Victory Lane for the first time since 2000  when he won the rain-lengthened Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on on Sunday/Monday.

Dillon was one of eight drivers who stayed on the track when the strongest cars in the field came to pit road on Lap 368 of 400.

Dillon trailed Jimmie Johnson, who also stayed out, until the seven-time champion ran out of gas with less than three laps left. Dillon saved just enough fuel to get to the finish line.

Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who opted to pit for fuel, finished second and third.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Dillon said in Victory Lane. “I can’t believe it. I was just really focused on those last laps. My fiancé wrote in the car, ‘When you keep God in first-place, he will take you places you never imagined.’

“And, I never imagined I be here at the 600 Victory Lane. Praise the Lord and all these guys who work so hard; and my pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them. We’re in the playoffs. It’s awesome.”

Dillon, who led only the final two laps, had to save, save save fuel in pursuit of Johnson.

“I was just trying to be patient with the No. 48,” Dillon said. “I could see him saving. I thought I’d saved enough early, where I could attack at the end, but I tried to wait as long as possible. And when he ran out, I figured I’d go back in and save where I was lifting, and it worked out.

“I ran out at the line, and it gurgled all around just to do one little spin and push it back to Victory Lane.”

Matt Kenseth ran fourth, followed by Joe Gibbs racing teammate Denny Hamlin, as Toyotas claimed positions two through five.

The excitement started early at the 1.5-mile track, more than six hours before the race ended. On Lap 20, five laps before a scheduled competition caution, a large piece of debris shot from the back of Jeffrey Earnhardt’s smoking No. 33 car into the path of Chase Elliott’s No. 24 Chevrolet.

The debris knocked a hole in the nose of Elliott’s car, and flames erupted beneath the engine compartment as fluid spilled from the Chevy. Brad Keselowski skidded through the oil, as if his No. 2 Ford had hit a patch of ice, and piled into the back of Elliott’s car, destroying both machines.

“Somebody broke, and there was just oil everywhere, and I couldn’t turn,” Keselowski said. “I ran into the back of Chase. Somebody broke in front of him, and then he ran over what they broke and then he broke, so there were two cars broke in front of me and just oil everywhere.

“You couldn’t stop and turn. You couldn’t do anything. It’s a real bummer for our team. We had a really fast Miller Lite Ford, and I think we had a shot at winning tonight, but that’s how it goes.”

Elliott was equally disappointed that his car was on a wrecker in the garage.

“The No. 33 broke something ahead of me and I ended up hitting it,” Elliott said. “I hit it pretty hard. I knew it had hurt our nose at least, then I saw some flames and figured we were laying down oil too, I guess.

“Brad couldn’t get stopped and ended up kind of finishing us off, but it was a bummer. I hate it. I don’t really know what you do about stuff like that. Just move on.”

After the subsequent restart on Lap 28, the rest of the first 100-lap stage ran caution-free, with Kyle Busch passing Truex on Lap 90 and pulling away to secure the playoff point accorded the stage winner.

Truex was leading when the caution flag flew for the third time on Lap 142 after Matt DiBenedetto’s No. 32 Ford slammed into the outside wall. Moments later, NASCAR red-flagged the race because of the threat of heavy rain and lightning in the area.

The rain arrived and drenched the track, forcing a delay of 1 hour, 39 minutes, 56 seconds before the cars started rolling again.

Truex dominated after a restart on Lap 176 and won the second stage going away. The driver of the No. 78 Toyota appeared headed for another victory in Stage 3 until series leader Kyle Larson blew a tire and pounded the wall on Lap 292.

“I got really loose into (Turn) 3 and hit the wall and got a lot of damage, and the tire started to go down and then exploded in (Turn) 1,” Larson said. “I just hate it that I made a mistake there in Turn 3 and got in the wall.

“I wasn’t even running hard up there. I just got loose and then I hit it and it ruined our day. I’m hoping to hold onto the point lead and then go to Dover next week and try to do better.”

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – Coca-Cola 600

Charlotte Motor Speedway

Concord, North Carolina

Sunday, May 28, 2017

  1. (22) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 400.
  2. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400.
  3. (8) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 400.
  4. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400.
  5. (6) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 400.
  6. (12) Kurt Busch, Ford, 400.
  7. (5) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 400.
  8. (1) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 400.
  9. (17) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 400.
  10. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 400.
  11. (20) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 400.
  12. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 400.
  13. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 400.
  14. (9) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 400.
  15. (13) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 400.
  16. (18) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 400.
  17. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 400.
  18. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 399.
  19. (21) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 399.
  20. (29) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 399.
  21. (23) Joey Logano, Ford, 399.
  22. (25) Regan Smith(i), Ford, 399.
  23. (28) David Ragan, Ford, 397.
  24. (7) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 396.
  25. (15) Danica Patrick, Ford, 396.
  26. (33) * JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 395.
  27. (32) Gray Gaulding #, Toyota, 393.
  28. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 393.
  29. (36) * Timmy Hill(i), Chevrolet, 384.
  30. (35) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 375.
  31. (37) * Derrike Cope, Toyota, 327.
  32. (40) * Corey LaJoie #, Toyota, Engine, 315.
  33. (39) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 292.
  34. (34) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, Engine, 290.
  35. (24) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 244.
  36. (27) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, Rear End, 242.
  37. (30) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 139.
  38. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 19.
  39. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 19.
  40. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, Rear End, 18.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  138.8 mph.

Time of Race:  04 Hrs, 19 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.835 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  9 for 53 laps.

Lead Changes:  23 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Harvick 1; Kyle Busch 2-23; K. Harvick 24-64; Kyle Busch 65-66; J. Johnson 67; D. Patrick 68-74; M. Truex Jr. 75-89; Kyle Busch 90-102; M. Truex Jr. 103; K. Harvick 104-106; M. Truex Jr. 107-176; P. Menard 177-178; M. Truex Jr. 179-248; J. Johnson 249-252; M. Truex Jr. 253-294; R. Stenhouse Jr. 295-296; D. Hamlin 297-306; Kyle Busch 307-329; M. Truex Jr. 330; Kyle Busch 331-333; M. Truex Jr. 334-367; Kurt Busch 368; J. Johnson 369-398; A. Dillon 399-400.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  M. Truex Jr. 7 times for 233 laps; Kyle Busch 5 times for 63 laps; K. Harvick 3 times for 45 laps; J. Johnson 3 times for 35 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 10 laps; D. Patrick 1 time for 7 laps; R. Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 2 laps; P. Menard 1 time for 2 laps; A. Dillon 1 time for 2 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,78,4,48,20,42,21,14,41,1

Stage #2 Top Ten: 78,48,20,18,41,1,3,77,42,11

Stage #3 Top Ten: 11,18,20,78,77,41,4,19,88,3

| , RacinToday.com Monday, May 29 2017
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