Richard Childress Racing driver Austin Dillon only has one more chance to lock up a spot in the playoffs. He had an opportunity to overtake Tyler Reddick based on points, but a stunning wreck at Michigan International Speedway sent him to the garage early. Now Dillon can only make the playoffs by winning the regular-season finale after falling 25 points behind his teammate.
The incident occurred after the yellow flag waved to mark the end of Stage 2. Dillon fought with Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski for position on the final lap, ultimately using the side draft to move past him as the green and white checkered flag waved. He then moved the No. 3 Chevrolet up the track as Keselowski moved the No. 2 Ford down. The two stock cars collided and sent Dillon spinning hard into the outside wall, destroying the No. 3.
Prior to the crash, Dillon had contended for the lead with Hendrick Motorsports drivers Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson. He drove what analyst Dale Earnhardt Jr. called a “rocketship” and finished Stage 1 third overall behind the two Chevrolets. He then captured sixth place in Stage 2 moments before the stunning wreck.
Both Drivers Immediately Apologized After the Incident
When Dillon slammed into the wall, several people voiced their opinions of the situation. Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather and owner of the race team, said that Keselowski wrecked the No. 3 on purpose, per reporter Kelly Crandall.
Dillon initially said that the incident was “my bad.” Keselowski, on the other hand, said to his team over the radio that he had no intention of wrecking the No. 3. He said that he just wanted to hold Dillon down near the apron.
Once the driver of the No. 3 watched the replay, he expressed frustration about the incident. He explained to NBC Sports that he was starting to come up off the apron due to the roughness of the surface. Dillon added that he thought Keselowski would give him a little room since the stage was over. He was incorrect in this assessment, resulting in the race-ending wreck.
“I am bummed. I wanted of course to get a win and I hate that I had that contact with the 3,” Keselowski said after the race, per Crandall. “That really sucks for everybody. It really hurt our day and obviously ruined his. That was crappy. So it goes.”
Dillon Can Win at One of His Best Tracks
While he sits 25 points behind his teammate, Dillon will still enter the regular-season finale as a driver to watch. He has past success at Daytona International Speedway and will have yet another opportunity to reach Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
Dillon notched the second win of his career at Daytona, kicking off the 2018 season with a victory in the Daytona 500. He added the Crown Jewel to his collection and ensured that he would suit up for the playoffs for the second consecutive year.
In 16 starts at Daytona, Dillon has one win, three top-five finishes, and eight top-10s. He will now have the opportunity to continue this run in the Coke Zero Sugar 400. However, he can not simply show up and post another top-10 finish. Dillon will have to reach Victory Lane to guarantee that he will continue in the playoffs and fight for the championship trophy once again.
The Cup Series regular-season finale will take place on Saturday, Aug. 28. Dillon and his peers will suit up for the 160-lap race as they fight for the final spot in the 16-driver field. NBC will broadcast the race, starting at 7 p.m. ET.
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