Austin Dillon Wins Duel 2

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2021

Rain forced the Duel 2 field to run late into the night at Daytona but the wait was worth it for Austin Dillon (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Confidence in one’s car and oneself is essential for a successful superspeedway race and in Thursday night’s rain-delayed second Bluegreen Vacations Duel Austin Dillon demonstrated the advantage to possessing both.

When the race’s final lap started Dillon was fourth, but when the checkered flag waved the third-generation driver possessed his first Duel victory. It was the first time the No. 3 had been in a Duel victory lane since 2000 when Dale Earnhardt won his 10th Daytona qualifying race.

“I feel like I’m a solid speedway racer. When you give me that piece I’ll go drive it,” Dillon said. “It’s confidence in the car’s ability, then being confident in the moves that you make that allow you to do what you do.

“There’s also a fine line where you trim the car out and the speed is there, but the handling is not. You see guys that may make a move but they’re out of control. Those are the guys that … have speed, but you don’t trust as much. They’ll come off the corner one minute and can’t hold a line. If you can carry speed, make moves, the car looks settled, that’s the scary guy. That’s the guy like Denny (Hamlin). He just finds his way to the front most of the time.”

And finding his way to the front was exactly what Dillon did on the race’s final lap. When the white flag waved Dillon was fourth behind Martin Truex Jr., Bubba Wallace and Kyle Busch, respectively. Directly behind Dillon was Kevin Harvick. Heading into turn one Dillon moved to the outside and Harvick followed him. 

At the beginning of the backstretch, Dillon was already beside the second-place Wallace. He continued to lead the outside line’s charge down the fast backstretch with Harvick, Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher in tow. Truex moved up in an attempt to block Dillon, but that opened the inside lane for Wallace. Truex then found himself in the middle with no drafting help as Dillon remained on the outside. Wallace edged ahead as they streaked through turns three and four and possessed about a car-length advantage at the head of the frontstretch. When Wallace moved up to block Dillon, the third-generation driver dove to the inside between Wallace and Busch with a “flick of the wheel.” Dillon quickly moved out of Busch’s draft to hug the inside yellow line. Wallace dove down to try to slow Dillon by side-drafting him. However, Wallace’s effort failed as Dillon’s Chevrolet bumped Wallace’s Toyota as they raced through the trioval and Dillon claimed a 0.057-second victory.

“Lot of mistakes,” a disappointed Wallace said in an interview with Fox Sports after climbing from his car. “Good debut, but nothing to really be happy about on myself. It’s OK for drivers to be hard on themselves. That’s how we motivate ourselves to get out and do better. It was a good night, but I’ve got some learning to do.” 

A multi-car crash on lap 57 of the 60-lap event sent the race into overtime and prevented Noah Gragson from gaining entry into the Daytona 500. Gragson needed to finish ahead of Kaz Grala and Garrett Smithley in order to make the prestigious season opener; however, when he and Smithley were both involved in the five-car crash that opened the door for Grala. Also involved in the accident were William Byron, Ross Chastain and Brad Keselowski. If Byron has to go to a backup car, he will have to go to the rear of the field and lose his front-row starting position.

(Editor’s note: Deb Williams is in her fourth decade of covering motorsports. The former editor of NASCAR Winston Cup Scene and managing editor of GT Motorsports has also covered auto racing for United Press International, USA Today and The Charlotte Observer. The 1990 and 1996 National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year has authored five books and hosts the podcast “Racing Now and Then.”)


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 12 2021
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