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Austin Dillon, No. 3 Car Win The ’18 Daytona 500

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 18 2018

Austin Dillon needed to wreck Aric Almirola to win the Daytona 500 on Sunday. He did and he did. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Jim Fluharty)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Austin Dillon, driving the No. 3 Richard Childress Chevrolet which Dale Earnhardt drove to victory 20 years ago, took the lead on the final lap of overtime and went on to win the NASCAR Cup Series biggie, the Daytona 500, on Sunday.

The final lap was the only one Dillon led.

“It is so awesome to take the 3 car back to Victory Lane,” Dillon said. “This one is for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and all those Senior fans.”

The victory was Dillon’s second in Cup – his other came at Charlotte Motor Speedway a year ago. It came after he bumped leader Aric Almirola out of the way and into the wall on the final lap of the race.

“I did what I had to do at the end,” Dillon said. “I hate it for the 10 guys (Almirola and his team). We just had a run and I stayed in the gas. That’s what it is here at Daytona.”

Almirola, looking for his first Cup victory in his first race with Stewart-Haas Racing, took the high road after the race.

“My heart is broken,” he said. “I thought I was going to win the Daytona 500. Disappointed. I did everything I could but unfortunately, I ended up in the infield care center.”

Bubba Wallace finished second in the No. 43 car of Richard Petty Motorsports.

Denny Hamlin was third driving for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joey Logano, Hamlin’s teammate was fourth while Chris Buescher was fifth.

Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing won the first of the three stages while Ryan Blaney of Joe Gibbs Racing won the second stage.

The final stage of 80 laps featured single-file racing – with Blaney and Penske teammate Joey Logano leading the way – until green flag pit stops began with 30 laps to go. While Blaney had a clean stop reclaimed the lead after pitting cycled through, Logano was penalized for speeding on the stop.

Taking Logano’s spot on Blaney’s rear bumper was Martin Truex Jr. Third was Kurt Busch while Alex Bowman  was fourth as the single-file field headed into its final 20 laps.

With 10 laps to go, William Byron spun the No. 24 car and the seventh yellow flag of the day waved. That set up a restart with seven laps to go. Leader Blaney chose the inside line and had Kurt Busch behind him. Truex sat at the front of the outside row and had Bowman behind him.

Blaney restarted cleanly and Truex did not. Shortly afterward, Blaney got caught in the wrong place and Busch blew past for the lead.

With four to go, Blaney, now in the top lane shot back to the lead and had Hamlin pushing. With three to go, Hamlin took the lead.

With two laps to go, the big wreck occurred. Among those taken out were Kurt Busch, who was spun from behind by Blaney, Rickey Stenhouse, Bowman, Truex and Blaney.

“I kind of got to the left of the 41 (Busch) a little bit and somebody pushed me from behind and I think I turned him and you never want to do that,” Blaney, who led a race-best 118 laps, said.

Hamlin had the lead on the restart and took the green from the inside line. Next to him was Almirola. Third was Buescher and Austin Dillon was fourth. Almirola broke to the lead a half lap into the restart lap.

“Definitely disappointed after leading on the last restart, but it’s just a 50-50 shot,” Hamlin, the 2016 winner of the race, said. “It’s about what line can stay organized and work the best. I had the 37 (Chris Buescher) committed to my rear bumper which was great, but we couldn’t get the 21 (Paul Menard) to buy in. It’s really about the third car in line. Whoever that third car inline is closest to that line goes. We just didn’t have the line to win.”

Then came the bump from behind by Austin.

A number of high profile drivers failed to finish on the lead lap as wrecks, mechanical woes and penalties took a big toll.

Danica Patrick will apparently retire from Cup competition without ever posting a victory. Patrick was involved in a wreck in the Stage 2.

“I know we pulled this together not that long ago – a month ago – that’s a tall order to get a car ready for a superspeedway that’s competitive,” she said. “But it was.  I said earlier today that I feel like the whole thing was picture perfect with GoDaddy on the car and it being that green again.  But it just wasn’t meant to be today.  But I am proud – we raced the whole race — other than a little bit at the end of that first stage when I just looked silly with all the cars with no tires and tires.  Other than that, we raced it. It was competitive.  That’s all you can do.  That’s the gamble about Daytona.  It can go so well and it can go so awful.  So, I’m grateful for everything .Thank you to all the fans.  Still got one more.  It’s not a stock car, but still got one more.”

Also not finishing the race was the driver who caused the wreck which took Patrick out – Chase Elliott.

I had a big push from Brad (Keselowski) and was trying to do something with it on Ryan (Blaney),” Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Chevy, said. “I didn’t really expect to get by him.  I was kind of feeling him out to see how aggressive he wanted to be and just kind of got light over the transition and was a big push at the wrong time I guess.  It happens and we will just move on down the road.”

Former Cup champion Keslowski of Team Penske also was taken out in that wreck.

Jimmie Johnson, attempting to become the first eight-time Cup champion, was involved in a big wreck just 60 laps into the race and at the end of the first stage. It was a wreck, he said, that featured over-aggressive driving that early in the race.

“Unfortunately, many thought it was the black and white checkered flag and not the green and white checkered flag,” Johnson said. “On lap 59 to be throwing blocks like that just…a lot of wrecked race cars.  We will go to work and go to Atlanta next week.

“I’m not sure everybody was thinking big picture and really using their head through that.”

Former Cup champion Kyle Busch finished off the lead lap after suffering tire problems twice in the race.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race – DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 18, 2018

  1. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 207.
  2. (7) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Chevrolet, 207.
  3. (2) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 207.
  4. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 207.
  5. (21) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 207.
  6. (16) Paul Menard, Ford, 207.
  7. (3) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 207.
  8. (13) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 207.
  9. (22) Michael McDowell, Ford, 207.
  10. (20) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 207.
  11. (37) Aric Almirola, Ford, 206.
  12. (29) Justin Marks(i), Chevrolet, 206.
  13. (18) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 206.
  14. (39) * David Gilliland(i), Ford, 206.
  15. (10) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 206.
  16. (19) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 205.
  17. (1) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 205.
  18. (24) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 205.
  19. (38) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 204.
  20. (34) Gray Gaulding, Toyota, 204.
  21. (27) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 204.
  22. (40) * Mark Thompson, Ford, 203.
  23. (33) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 203.
  24. (30) * DJ Kennington, Toyota, 201.
  25. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.
  26. (11) Kurt Busch, Ford, Accident, 198.
  27. (36) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Accident, 198.
  28. (25) * Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, Accident, 198.
  29. (9) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 197.
  30. (15) David Ragan, Ford, Accident, 107.
  31. (6) Kevin Harvick, Ford, Accident, 105.
  32. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 102.
  33. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 101.
  34. (26) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, Accident, 101.
  35. (28) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, Accident, 101.
  36. (8) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 59.
  37. (17) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Accident, 59.
  38. (35) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
  39. (23) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 59.
  40. (32) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, Engine, 8.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  150.545 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 26 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.260 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 37 laps.

Lead Changes:  24 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   A. Bowman 0; D. Hamlin 1-10; J. Marks(i) 11; Kurt Busch 12-14; A. Bowman 15-22; E. Jones 23-33; R. Stenhouse Jr. 34-44; C. Elliott 45-48; J. Logano 49-51; Kurt Busch 52-62; A. Bowman 63-67; R. Blaney 68-93; P. Menard 94; M. Truex Jr. 95-98; R. Blaney 99-122; A. Allmendinger 123; R. Blaney 124-170; D. Hamlin 171-173; R. Blaney 174-193; D. Hamlin 194; Kurt Busch 195-196; R. Blaney 197; D. Hamlin 198-205; A. Almirola 206; A. Dillon 207;.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  R. Blaney 5 times for 118 laps; D. Hamlin 4 times for 22 laps; Kurt Busch 3 times for 16 laps; A. Bowman 2 times for 13 laps; R. Stenhouse Jr. 1 time for 11 laps; E. Jones 1 time for 11 laps; C. Elliott 1 time for 4 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 4 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 3 laps; A. Dillon 1 time for 1 lap; A. Almirola 1 time for 1 lap; P. Menard 1 time for 1 lap; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; J. Marks(i) 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 41,88,12,17,78,34,4,9,21,6

Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,21,22,10,34,78,43,6,3,11

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, February 18 2018
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