Austin Dillon has collected the second NASCAR win of his career with a controversial victory in Sunday’s Daytona 500 season-opener.
The talking point was on the final lap where Dillon spun race leader Aric Almirola around in the penultimate corner to take the win by three car lengths.
The 500-mile race at the high-banked Daytona International Speedway featured a total of eight caution periods. There were three major wrecks involving at least seven cars each time, which took out some of the strongest drivers in the field.
A final 13-car pileup saw the caution surface with two laps to go sending the race into an overtime two-lap sprint to the chequered flag. Defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. and pole man Alex Bowman – both consistent top runners for the day – were put out of contention from the incident.
Dillon started the race from fourteenth place in the brand new 2018 spec. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 entry, and ran one lap down for much of the race up to Lap 280. He fought from the outside row in third position on the overtime restart hustling his way behind Almirola before taking him out in dramatic fashion.
Surprisingly, only 10 of the 40 drivers who started the ‘Great American Race’ finished on the lead lap.
Ryan Blaney, who led the most laps of the race (188 in total) slipped to seventh overall after suffering damage in the Lap 199 pule-up.
The season opener ended in a fitting fashion with the famous #3 car (once driven by the late Dale Earnhardt) came across the line in first, twenty years to the day since Earnhardt’s famous last victory at the track. Dillon paid his own tribute, spinning into the grass infield on the start/finish section in true Earnhardt fashion with some celebratory burnouts.
Unfortunately, it was an early end to Danica Patrick’s NASCAR career. Entered as a wildcard, she was involved in the six-car wreck on Lap 102 which consigned to her a 35th-placed classification. Patrick will compete in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 in May after choosing to step down from full-time racing at the end of last year.
The NASCAR Cup Series has now entered full swing with 25 weekends of racing ahead for drivers and fans alike for the remainder of the year before heading into the playoffs bracket of the season in September. The circus now makes their way to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second round of the season this weekend.
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