Austin Dillon dominates NASCAR XFINITY race at Charlotte
May 23, 2015
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
CONCORD, N.C. – For the second straight Saturday, Denny Hamlin had the chance to hold off a race’s strongest car for the victory.
Unlike last Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, however, there were too many laps left after the final restart in Saturday’s Hisense 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series, and polesitter Austin Dillon powered past Hamlin on Lap 186 of 200 to finish the race where he belonged—at the front of the field.
By the time he crossed the finish line, Dillon was 2.692 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who had taken the lead during a restart on Lap 167 that saw Dillon fall back to fourth from the inside lane by the time the leaders exited Turn 2.
One by one, Dillon picked off Regan Smith, Kahne and Hamlin on the way to his second XFINITY Series victory of the season, his first at Charlotte and the fourth of his career.
Kahne ran third behind Dillon and Hamlin, followed by Smith and rookies Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Ty Dillon came home seventh and trimmed the series lead of 11th-place finisher Chris Buescher to four points.
Dillon led 163 laps and held an advantage of more than six seconds during a 54-lap green-flag run that preceded the second caution of the race on Lap 110.
How good was Dillon’s No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet?
“I didn’t want to get out of this thing,” Dillon said in Victory Lane. “This thing drove so good. It was a heck of a race there with Denny at the end and Kasey (Kahne). I had to go right there in lapped traffic (to make the winning pass).
“I knew if I didn’t hurry up and get in front of him right there, the tires might equalize (in terms of grip).”
But when Dillon picked the inside lane for what proved to be the final restart—after a caution for Kyle Fowler’s wreck in Turn 1—Hamlin seized what he considered a fortuitous opportunity and surged into the lead.
“I thought when the 33 gave us the outside, that was a big advantage for us if we could stay with him through Turns 1 and 2,” said Hamlin, who last Saturday held off Kevin Harvick in the final 10-lap shootout to win the all-star race. “We (did), and it allowed us to get position on him and even get him shuffled a few spots.
“That was all good, but his car was just so fast he just overcame that track position.”
Hamlin lost the lead when the lapped car of Peyton Sellers stayed low and forced Hamlin’s No. 54 Toyota to pass on the outside.
“I needed to stay on the bottom,” Hamlin said. “My car was best on the bottom. His car was pinned to the bottom as well. So I needed all of the lapped cars to move up high, and all of them did, except for the 97 (Sellers). He gave us the high line. That just killed us and killed our chances from that point, once the 33 got to our inside.”
Dillon chose the inside line because his car had worked well on the bottom for the entire race to that point.
“My spotter (Andy Houston) made the fact that we should have probably taken the top, and I had been on the bottom all day, so I chose the bottom again,” Dillon said. “I just didn’t want to let these guys down (his crew). The Rheem car was so fast...
“I thought about it, and I probably should have used the top, just because I would have had the run down the backstretch. It seems that, as the race goes on, that the outside can stop spinning the tires, and the rubber lays down...
“Andy made the point, and it all worked out, but I’ll definitely learn from that, for sure.”
Smith, Wallace, Suarez and Ty Dillon qualified for next week’s XFINITY Dash4Cash competition at Dover as the top four finishers among series regulars. Those drivers will compete for $100,000 in next Saturday’s race at Dover, with the top finisher among them claiming the prize.