Dillon Goes On Wild Ride

Austin Dillon

“The guys told me to bring back the steering wheel or the trophy. We brought back the steering wheel." (Photo: Getty Images)

TALLADEGA, Ala. - The benefits of youth were evident as Austin Dillon stood in the garage Sunday, recounting his last-lap crash that sent his car airborne.

The 23-year-old said he felt fine and spoke with an excitement that older drivers might recognize from their youth but couldn’t replicate nowadays.

“It was pretty wild,’’ said Dillon, who was driving for the injured Tony Stewart at Talladega Superspeedway. “I was watching cars go underneath. It was just like a cool roller-coaster ride. Craziness going under you.

“The guys told me to bring back the steering wheel or the trophy. We brought back the steering wheel.’’

He did by driving the mangled car back to the garage.

Yet, only a few minutes earlier he had been running third on the backstretch with half a lap to go. He was that close to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.

Dillon admitted the result - he finished 26th - was “disappointing, but I think everybody knew we were here.’’

He seemed poised to give Stewart’s team its best finish since Stewart suffered a broken leg in a sprint car crash in August, forcing him to miss the rest of the season.

Jamie McMurray, who won, led with Dale Earnhardt Jr. second, followed by Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard on the backstretch during the last lap

Stenhouse said he pulled out to make a move under Dillon, who dipped down to block. Stenhouse turned back up the track to try to get by and they made contact.

Dillon’s car spun down to the inside of the track before coming back up the track in front of traffic.

“I was like, ‘this is going to be bad,’ ‘’ he said.

Casey Mears had nowhere to go and struck Dillon’s car. The impact was so severe it launched Dillon’s car, which twirled in the air, before landing on its wheels, allowing Dillon to drive it back to the garage. Mears was evaluated and released from the infield care center.

Dillon said he was committed to going with Earnhardt on the last lap but never got the chance.

“Shoot, man, it’s my first Talladega (Cup race), second speedway race and experience probably wasn’t all there,’’ said Dillon, who leads the points in the Nationwide Series. “As we go, I’ll get smarter and smarter and try to learn from that and make it to the last lap.

“I’ll probably celebrate getting through this one with a cold beer.’’

Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, Austin Dillon

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