NASCAR Barometer: Dillon Wins First Race Since 2018

NASCAR Barometer: Dillon Wins First Race Since 2018

This article is part of our NASCAR Barometer series.

Richard Childress Racing scored a 1-2 finish for the first time since 2011 when Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick survived three late restarts to finish Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The win boosted Dillon from just outside the playoff positions to a guaranteed spot in the championship battle. The pair took advantage of a caution that stuck many of the race's fastest cars in traffic for the final miles. Ryan Blaney, who dominated much of the afternoon to that point, led more than 100 laps in the race but didn't win for the second time at the track. Dillon and Reddick had the pace to race at the front of the field and took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself to hold off the charging field and cap off a brilliant day for the team that has shown serious pace many times this season.

Kansas Speedway hosts a Thursday night race this week for the NASCAR Cup series contenders. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin won at the track last season, and both of those drivers were in contention for the win at Texas, too. With eight races remaining in the regular season the battle for the final playoff positions continues to heat up. Jimmie Johnson did just enough to take a one-point advantage over teammate William Byron from a rough Texas afternoon, but with four drivers within 25 points of that final playoff position the action is sure to grow even more intense.

UPGRADE

Richard Childress Racing scored a 1-2 finish for the first time since 2011 when Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick survived three late restarts to finish Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. The win boosted Dillon from just outside the playoff positions to a guaranteed spot in the championship battle. The pair took advantage of a caution that stuck many of the race's fastest cars in traffic for the final miles. Ryan Blaney, who dominated much of the afternoon to that point, led more than 100 laps in the race but didn't win for the second time at the track. Dillon and Reddick had the pace to race at the front of the field and took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself to hold off the charging field and cap off a brilliant day for the team that has shown serious pace many times this season.

Kansas Speedway hosts a Thursday night race this week for the NASCAR Cup series contenders. Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin won at the track last season, and both of those drivers were in contention for the win at Texas, too. With eight races remaining in the regular season the battle for the final playoff positions continues to heat up. Jimmie Johnson did just enough to take a one-point advantage over teammate William Byron from a rough Texas afternoon, but with four drivers within 25 points of that final playoff position the action is sure to grow even more intense.

UPGRADE

Austin Dillon – Dillon benefited from a later pit stop, a top-10 car, and a two-tire pit stop in the final stage to move himself to the front of the field and in position to battle for the win. He then went on to survive multiple late-race restarts to keep the lead, win the race, and launch himself into the playoffs. Prior to Sunday's race, he was 24 points behind Jimmie Johnson and on the outside looking in at the championship knockout battle. Prior to Sunday's final round of pit stops, he was seventh on track. The team leveraged speed and strategy to win the race and get themselves into the championship battle. Dillon has three top-10 finishes at Kansas with an average finish of 17.2 from 13 career starts at the track. 

Ryan Blaney – Blaney won the first stage of Sunday's 500-mile race at Texas Motor Speedway and then went on to win the second stage in commanding fashion as well. He was the dominant car throughout the race's 500 miles, but a poorly timed caution put him in traffic for the final laps. That traffic proved to be too much to overcome in the final laps, as he was only able to claw his way back to seventh place by the finish. It was a bad luck for the team that seemed to have a handle on the rest of the field for most of the day, but it should be a reminder that Blaney continues to be one of the fastest cars in the series this season. Blaney has five top-10 finishes at Kansas, but his best finish there last season was 21st in the fall race. His average finish at the track is 15.7 in 10 career starts.

Kyle Busch – Despite taking a late ride through the infield grass after hard racing and contact, Busch rallied to finish fourth Sunday in Texas. He led 11 laps in the 500-mile race, and while he may still be lacking a win this season, he has been doing enough to remain in contention for potential victories each week. Time is running out for Busch to get a regular-season win, but he remains more than 100 points above the cutoff line for the playoffs. His championship life remains secure, but his lack of bonus points may become a factor as the knockout rounds progress. Busch is certainly in a hole and would be best served by overcoming the struggles before the playoffs actually get underway at Darlington.

Aric Almirola – Almirola started from pole but faced issues right off the bat. First, his brake pedal was soft, leaving him and the crew unsure of how well he would be able to stop for his first pit stop. Following that initial stop, he was hit with a blend-line violation that dropped him out of the battle for the lead and two laps behind the leader with less than 30 laps remaining in the first stage. With his car's pace, however, he was able to overcome all of that and continue his streak of top-10 finishes. He led 35 laps in the race and could have been fighting for the win had he not fallen so far behind initially. Almirola still holds the lead in the standings among nonwinners by just one point over Kurt Busch. His streak of top-10 finishes also now stands at eight and counting. 

DOWNGRADE

Martin Truex Jr. – Truex was in the wrong place at the wrong time in the final restart on Sunday when teammate Kyle Busch was turned into him. The contact sent Truex careening into the wall and then back across oncoming traffic that ultimately triggered a red flag and left the No. 19 car with significant damage. After that pile up, Truex was left to pick up as many points as possible, circling the track with a heavily damaged car. Truex has just one win so far this season, but he has two at Kansas Speedway. He finished sixth in the last race at that track, having led 33 laps. This team has been half a step behind the top contenders to this point in the season and needs to fine its footing quickly before the playoffs commence.

Matt DiBenedetto – DiBenedetto spent much of Sunday afternoon's race running in the top 10 only to be clipped by Quin Houff as the driver of the No. 00 machine attempted to make a move to pit road and collided with Christopher Bell. The incident meant DiBenedetto restarted the final 23 laps outside of the top 20 and a lap down to the leaders. DiBenedetto's best Kansas finish came last fall when he finished 15th. His average finish from 10 starts at the track is 25.9. Fantasy players have been used to ignoring DiBenedetto's past track statistics given his better equipment this season, but this week may be one to temper expectations. The Wood Brothers Racing driver is coming off of a disappointing weekend at a track at which he has yet to show any real speed.

Denny Hamlin – While embroiled in a battle for the lead with Ryan Blaney in the final 50 laps of Sunday's race, Hamlin opted for a two-tire stop to gain time on the No. 12 car in a brave strategic move. Hamlin had been a top-five car all afternoon but opted for the gamble to get himself out of traffic in an effort to manage the gap to the finish. That move may have been the right one were it not for multiple late cautions that left him in the thick of traffic when he lost control and collected Alex Bowman, effectively ending the afternoon for both drivers. Hamlin won last time out at Kansas, leading 153 laps in the fall race to beat Chase Elliott, and having, won four times already this season, he can afford to gamble a bit as the playoffs approach. 

Jimmie Johnson – Johnson's speed was present yet again in Texas, but luck continued to be against him when a heavy hit with the outside wall brought out the caution in the second stage. The accident left the car with significant damage. After stopping for repairs, he was then hit with a two-lap penalty for having too many men over the wall. The team kept him on track to pick up as many points as possible, however. That decision proved to be the right one, as multiple crashes later in the race allowed the No. 48 to move into the bubble position in the playoff standings just two points ahead of teammate William Byron. Johnson has three Kansas wins and finished in the top 10 in both races at the track last season. 

Joey Logano – After six races without a top-five finish Logano finally made his return with a third-place finish at Texas. Logano led 22 laps in the race and finished second in the second stage, too. The Penske Racing Fords had the speed to win on Sunday and kept the pace at the front of the field throughout the race. While the late cautions left many of the fastest cars mired in traffic for the final miles, Logano worked his way forward to return to the finishing form he showed at the beginning of the season. The pace the three teammates showed on Sunday will be a boost for the organization as races wind down until the championship playoffs begin, and it would not come as a surprised to see any of them score more victories before then.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

Tyler Reddick – Reddick finished second on Sunday behind teammate Dillon to sweep the top two spots in Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas for Richard Childress Racing. The second-place finish was his second top-five this season and his third consecutive top-10 finish in the last three races. While he and his teammate took advantage of fortunate circumstances to finish out front, they needed the speed and composure to stay there, which was no fluke. He now finds himself just 14 points out of the playoff positions. Reddick raced in last season's spring race at Kansas and went on from his 21st starting position to finish ninth in what was a preview of things that are sure to come from him as his career in the Cup series progresses. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
C.J. Radune
Radune covers NASCAR, Formula 1 and soccer for RotoWire. He was named the Racing Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association in 2012 and 2015.
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