Austin Dillon Wins Wild NASCAR XFINITY Series Finish In Fontanaby Camille Jones March 19, 2016
FONTANA, Calif. – Chasing after his fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series win in a row, Kyle Busch fell victim to a blown left front tire as Austin Dillon passed him for the win on the final lap of Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 by Janssen at Auto Club Speedway.
The win marks Dillon’s seventh victory in 102 starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and his first at Auto Club Speedway.
“They said he (Kyle Busch) had a flat,” said Dillon in Victory Lane. “I was worried about our fuel and stayed focus on that the whole time. He tried to screw me right there at the end, but it didn’t work out for him, did it? I’m proud of these Rheem guys. Man that was fun. I didn’t think we had a car to do that, and we didn’t, but we did what we needed to do, and that was to win the race.”
Busch, driver of the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota, held off his hard-charging Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez, to lead 133 laps of the scheduled 150 laps.
As fuel strategy came into play in the final laps, Jones, driver of the No. 20 GameStop/Nyko Toyota, fought hard to keep up with his veteran teammate. After making contact with the No. 22 America’s tire Ford of Ryan Blaney, his car suffered body damage. Maintaining the second place position, he was unable to save enough fuel and was forced to pit with only a few laps remaining.
“We were racing hard with the 19 (Daniels Suarez) and the 20 (Erik Jones) and we weren’t very good on a short run,” said Blaney. “We had to hold on and fight to try to stay as far up as we could until we could start reeling them back in. I just kind of turned up in front of the 20. I didn’’t know he was out there. It’s obviously my fault, so I’m sorry to him for turning up in front of him, but I just didn’t know he was out there. I thought I had enough time to get back up and get in front of him and it cost me. That ruined our day.”
After taking the white flag, Busch suffered the tire failure but never lifted from the throttle in an effort to hold off the field. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Suarez, driver of the No. 19 Interstate Batteries Toyota was able to pass him but ran out of fuel with only a half of a lap remaining, bringing him to the pits and not allowing him to capture the first victory of his career.
In the outcome of the thrilling finish, it was Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet, was able to complete the final lap ahead of Kyle Busch to capture his first victory of the 2016 season.
Dillon was able to shake up the Joe Gibbs Racing team domination of the series with his win. While Busch was able to rally the damaged car to a second place finish, Darrell Wallace, Jr. was able to move into third in the midst of the final lap events. Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler completed the top-five.
“We had a really good NOS Energy Camry all day,” said crew chief of the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota Camry, Chris Gayle. “I think Kyle (Busch) and the team did a great job, led the most laps. It’s just really kind of sour right now to have that good of a car and not win the race. We obviously did everything right on fuel mileage, we made it past the checkered flag and we knew we would be close. Just unfortunate – I don’t know if we ran over something or if it was just wear with the left front tire.
After five races of the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series season schedule, Suarez currently leads the point standings by 10 points over Sadler.
Saturday’s race at Auto Club Speedway marked the end of the west coast swing for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The series will take two weekends off and return to competition on Friday, April 8 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Live race coverage will be found on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) and the Performance Racing Network (PRN) at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/NASCAR via Getty Images