Austin Dillon finally won last weekend in New Hampshire.
Not the race, but the $100,000 bonus in the ‘Dash 4 Cash’ program, as he was the highest finisher among the four eligible drivers. It makes him among those eligible this weekend, as well. Dillon is still winless in the most important category however, that being on the racetrack.
Entering Sunday’s STP 300 at Chicagoland (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) he sits third in points, just 12 markers behind leader Regan Smith. In great position to seize the opportunity ahead, at a track Dillon loves to see upcoming on the schedule. Especially since he has a Truck Series win at the speedway in his back pocket.
“Coming to a mile-and-a-half right now is really good for our team, we’ve shown some speed this year at mile-and-a-half’s and I really love this place, it’s got a lot of character,” Dillon said on Saturday afternoon before practice in which he was fifth and second fastest, respectively.
“Love the city. Had a good week leading up to it and just excited about being here in Chicagoland.”
It might have come as a surprise for some if they had been told before the season Dillon, among other big names, would be winless after 17 NNS races. Here he is though, still looking for the ultimate reward for the Bass Pro Shops team’s hard work.
For it’s only the win column that Dillon has nothing to show for. His other numbers amassed through the first half of the season are quite impressive themselves. He has six poles already, and those were six straight poles on oval tracks.
Dillon’s also led 341 laps and finished in the top 10 on eleven different occasions. Those statistics are keeping him in championship contention as the team shifts focus toward finishing as well as they’ve been running.
“I think that’s the biggest part of it, they know we’re fast and each and every weekend the speed’s there and the finishes are starting to turn for us,” Dillon believes.
He noted New Hampshire as a great run for the team as they finished third and ran in the top five all day. Cautions and different strategies allowed the field to come together and catch a few breaks, otherwise Dillon felt he might have been able to go up and try to grab a few more spots at the end.
He takes four consecutive top 10 finishes into Sunday, the worst being a 10th during that stretch at the road course in Road America. It’s good timing, Dillon suggests, as the second half of the season gets underway.
“It’s been a real good year as far as speed, a decent year as far as getting the finishes that we think we deserve. Things are starting to turn at the right time, points have caught back up and I think we’re still going to take our same mentality into everything,” he said.
“Just trying to win races because foremost is to get that first win off our back.”