Austin Dillon put his name in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s record book Friday night; he just had to work a little harder than expected to do it.
Dillon completed a sweep of the speedway’s May and October NASCAR Xfinity Series races by winning the Drive for the Cure 300.
Dillon led the final 54 laps and beat Erik Jones by nearly 2.8 seconds for his fourth series win this season and the sixth of his career.
“I went at it wide-open for about a lap or two to get the lead,” said Dillon, who led three times for 61 laps. “We were pretty loose that last run, but it worked out for us. We were good enough to win the race.”
Dillon became the seventh driver in track history to pull off the May-October Xfinity sweep, and only the second to do so after starting from the pole in both races. The first was Jeff Gordon, who did it in 1992.
Brad Keselowski finished third, followed by rookie Daniel Suarez and Regan Smith. Points leader Chris Buescher finished seventh, and now leads Chase Elliott (who finished ninth) by 26 points.
Turning point: That came on the Lap 157 restart from the race’s third caution flag. Busch had pulled ahead, but lost momentum entering the first and second turns. That allowed both Jones and Dillon to pull alongside Busch, then pull ahead on the backstretch. Dillon would take the lead from Jones coming off the fourth turn.
Three who mattered
Austin Dillon: Earlier in the day, Dillon won his 16th career pole, his sixth this season and his third at CMS. But he only led the opening five laps before dropping back. However, adjustments and a quick stop during the race’s second caution put Dillon in position to reclaim the lead.
Kyle Busch: The all-time Xfinity victory leader (seven) at CMS looked to be on track to add to that, leading 102 laps. But after he lost the lead to Dillon, contact between him and Kasey Kahne sent both into the fourth-turn wall on the 151st lap. Busch dropped out of the race three laps later.
Regan Smith: Whittled off a few more points from Buescher’s points lead thanks to a fifth-place finish after barely running outside of the top 10. But he recovered to pull within 34 points of Buescher and eight points of second-place Chase Elliott.
▪ Before the two cautions late in Friday’s race, Busch was on pace to shatter the track’s Xfinity race speed record of 155.799 mph, set by Mark Martin in May 1996. Dillon wound up getting it close though, with his average speed of 152.027 mph the second-fastest in track history.
▪ Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing crew had to do some quick cleanup work on his No. 33 Chevrolet before Friday’s race, after unburned chunks of fireworks that were set off during the National Anthem fell onto the car. One piece reportedly fell just behind Dillon and singed his firesuit.
They said it
“I thought we had it, but (Dillon) had a really good run down the backstretch. I tried getting it back on the frontstretch, but I couldn’t quite clear him into (Turn 1). Unfortunately, that was the end of the race for us after that.” – Erik Jones.
Kansas Lottery 300
Where: Kansas Speedway, Kansas City, Kan.
When: 4 p.m., Oct. 17.
TV: NBC Sports Network.
Radio: Motor Racing Network.