Austin Dillon battled the heat and battled his teammate Tyler Reddick to score his first win at Texas Motor Speedway.
Pit strategy paid off for the iconic No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet as crew chief Justin Alexander elected to take two left tires on Dillon’s final pit stop with 23 laps remaining.
Despite two additional delays, Dillon held the point over the final 10 circuits to end an 88-race draught on Sunday.
“Not bad for a silver spoon kid, right? I’ll take that,” Dillon said. “Have to thank everyone at RCR, ECR, Bass Pro Shops. Tyler Reddick, he raced me clean. 1-2 for RCR – this has been coming. We’ve had good cars all year.
“Justin Alexander (crew chief) and my whole crew. I got my baby Ace back home and my wife, I love them so much. I’m just so happy—thank god.”
Reddick finished .149-seconds behind Dillon for a career-best result of second-place. The 1-2 sweep marks the first time RCR Chevrolet finished first and second since Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton at Talladega Superspeedway in 2011.
“What a great day for Richard Childress Racing,” Reddick said. “This organization is working so hard and to have a 1-2 finish like we did is incredible. It felt like we had everything happen to our No. 8 Cat Oil and Gas Chevrolet, but strategy was king today. We had good speed overall and earned some stage points at the end of the first stage, but we got shuffled back for the majority of the second stage when we took two right side tires. That really messed with the handling of our Chevrolet and trapped us a lap down for a while.
“There were a couple major wrecks later in Stage 3 that we were able to miss and that helped us get our lap back to be able to contend at the end. My crew chief, Randall Burnett, made a great call to take fuel only during the caution with about 30 laps to go and that put us up front for those final restarts with our teammate, Austin Dillon. We really couldn’t ask for much more than what we got today. One spot better would have been great, but the recovery this No. 8 Cat Oil and Gas team made today was huge.
“We’re racing for the big picture of making the playoffs, so we have to race smart. Days like this will help us get there.”
Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and polesitter Aric Almirola rounded out the top 10.
Almirola led the first 25 laps—through the competition caution as he and Harvick remained on the track with a different pit strategy. Harvick took the lead when the race returned to green. Almirola regained the lead on Lap 56. When he pitted on Lap 63, Almirola was busted for a blend line violation and was forced to serve a pass-thru penalty and dropped to 34th.
Martin Truex Jr. took the lead, but pitted on Lap 68 when he believed he was running out of gas. Kyle Busch took the lead, but was passed by Blaney who held on for the Stage 1 win.
Blaney lost the lead to Kyle Busch shortly after the race returned to green on Lap 112. Five laps later, Jimmie Johnson triggered the fourth caution when he hit the Turn 4 wall. To add insult to injury, NASCAR docked Johnson two laps for having too many men over the wall. He dropped to 39th and would finish 26th.
Busch lost the lead to Hamlin on Lap 123, but Blaney regained the point on Lap 126. The No. 12 Penske Ford held serve until green-flag stops on Lap 160. Blaney cycled back to the lead 30 laps later and collected his second stage win on Lap 210.
Blaney led the field to green for the start of Stage 2 on Lap 218. As the field came down the backstretch, Keselowski got a run. As he was passing on the inside of Blaney for the lead in Turn 3, the No. 12 Ford became loose and slid up into the PJ1. As Blaney slowed to gather up his car, the field bunched up behind him.
Almirola tagged the right rear of the No. 18 and sent Kyle Busch careening into his teammate Martin Truex Jr. to ignite the fifth caution. Last week’s Kentucky winner Cole Custer had no time to stop and plowed into Truex which caused an accordion effect collecting Chris Buescher, Matt Kenseth, William Byron, Ryan Preece, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Bubba Wallace in the melee.
NASCAR red-flagged the race for 11 minutes, 29 seconds. Keselowski led the field to green on Lap 225. A dogfight ensued between Keselowski and Hamlin, with the No. 11 getting the advantage through Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 233. But Blaney was relentless. He barreled by Hamlin on the outside for the lead on Lap 238—but a spin by John Hunter Nemechek on Lap 243 stalled the action again.
Blaney relinquished the point on Lap 288 to pit and dropped off the lead lap. With the drivers dropping off for green-flag stops, Harvick made a late-race charge and passed Logano for the lead—but it was short-lived. Quinn Houff crossed through two lanes to pit and collected Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto in the process.
Only 14 cars remained on the lead lap with 23 laps to decide the contest. The No. 8 RCR team elected to take fuel only on the final stop which provided Reddick with the lead off of pit road. On the track, however, Dillon was able to get by his teammate with a push from Kurt Busch.
Hamlin triggered the final two cautions. On Lap 319, he slid up into Alex Bowman and ended the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports driver’s day. Six laps later, Hamlin’s damaged car spun off of Turn 4. He’d finish 20th.
Although Reddick led Lap 324, Dillon persevered for his third career win and his first since his 2018 Daytona 500 victory.
“Yeah, I had to change it up a couple of times,” said Dillon, who was taken to the infield care center for fluids following the race. “Definitely had to earn it.
“I changed it up. I waited the second one and I went on the last one. So, it worked out for me good.”
Harvick continues to lead the Cup series standings by 91 points over Blaney. The Cup series moves on to Kansas Speedway for the Super Start Batteries 400 on Thursday night.