MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville was quite possibly one of the most exciting races at the historic half-mile in quite some time. This marked the first time that the stage format was used in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition and it did not disappoint.
One driver that benefitted from a wild day was none other than Austin Dillon. The driver of the No. 3 Okuma Chevrolet battled all day long and was able to come home with a fifth place finish, after being involved in a lap 290 incident that involved five other cars.
Dillon ran as high as third in the latter part of the final stage in the race, even challenging eventual race winner Brad Keselowski for second place, but eventually slipped back to fifth. Dillon’s car was not as strong on the long-run, as it was on the short-run which plagued him on the final run of the race that lasted 64 laps.
In his post-race availability Austin the importance of having short-run and long-run speed stating, “the way the new racing is with the stages and stuff, short-run speed is key and if you have long-run speed, fall off, it really doesn’t matter, because you’re gonna get a caution at some point”.
As previously mentioned, it did appear that Dillon was poised to challenge for a victory, but was unable to hold his position near the top of the leaderboard. “Really at one point I thought that we were going to have a little something for the two leaders, but the middle of the run our car lacked a little bit more turn and forward drive and then at the end, we could come back to them again. I was able to run the No. 22 back down there at the end”, Dillon said.
Dillon was reminded during the middle of the race by Crew Chief Slugger Labbe to be aggressive on restarts. He mentioned that his car was good enough on restarts and that was better for him than having to be aggressive.
With his finish on Sunday, he was able to follow-up a fourth-place finish at Martinsville last year, which he was excited about since Martinsville is one of his favorite tracks. Dillon expressed how proud he was of his team for not giving up and allowing him the opportunity to run so well.
The fifth-place finish at Martinsville marked Austin Dillon’s first top-10 and top-5 of the year, which the Richard Childress Racing organization as a whole can build off of moving forward.
When asked about a resurgence of RCR this year, with today’s finish and Ryan Newman’s win at Phoenix, Dillon said, It’s really key that we do stuff like this and short-tracks have been a lot better for us in the last year. This year, it was good to come back and repeat that, we still have work to do but it’s huge to see RCR running better and have cars capable of running with guys like this”.
It does seem that RCR is starting to make gains on the competition, but there is still progress to be made. With consistency and gaining confidence, it is likely that Austin Dillon will contend for wins as the season moves on.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Huff (apertureone.net)