Eventful Daytona 500 for Dillon
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on February 24, 2014 | 1:05 A.M. EST
Rookie Austin Dillon finished ninth despite being involved in three different incidents. (Photo: Getty Images)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The No. 3 car was bruised and battered but made it to the finish of Sunday’s Daytona 500, as rookie Austin Dillon finished ninth despite being involved in three different incidents.
It was quite a return for the No. 3 car, which had not run a NASCAR Sprint Cup race since Dale Earnhardt’s fatal crash in the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Dillon was fast in preseason testing in January and backed it by winning the pole. He led the opening lap before falling back in the pack and beginning his initiation into restrictor-plate racing at NASCAR’s highest level.
“It’s wild,’’ Dillon said of pit lane after the race. “I don’t know what to think. A lot of things happened fast.’’
Some good, some not so good.
Dillon was collected in a 13-car crash on the frontstretch that brought out the caution Lap 146. Dillon was clipped by Aric Almirola’s car and spun but was able to continue.
“We had some really good saves,’’ said Dillon, whose collected $424,674 in winnings. “I spun around backwards and caught it somehow.’’
Dillon’s adventure was just beginning. Contact with Kyle Larson started a crash less than 20 laps later that involved 10 cars in Turn 4.
“I was in the middle and he just started inching down, I think,’’ Dillon said after the race. “I just had a run and I was kind of in the middle.’’
Said Larson: “I just pulled the middle line and I don’t know if Austin got a little loose, shuffled up the track and got into me and turned us sideways.’’
Then, came an incident with teammate Ryan Newman that brought out the caution on Lap 195 and collected seven cars.
“I checked up, and I got hit, too,’’ Dillon radioed his team after the contact.
Then Dillon found himself in the right lane at the end and scored the top-10 finish.d
"The biggest thing is just having that bottom lane at the end,’’ Dillon said. “Everything started stacking from the middle to the top just from all the side drafting. Man, the side drafting it just kills you. I just had clean space down there, used it, and it worked out.’’