Dillon leads 1-2 RCR finish in Cup race before fans at Texas
Published 11:25 pm Sunday, July 19, 2020
By Stephen Hawkins
AP Sports Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas— Austin Dillon stayed in front after a restart with two laps to go and beat rookie teammate Tyler Reddick to the checkered flag at Texas, giving Richard Childress Racing its first 1-2 NASCAR Cup finish in nine years.
With spectators spread out in the stands on a scorching Sunday, a very dehydrated Dillon got the checkered flag and did some celebratory burnouts on the frontstretch before going to the infield care center.
“I got a couple IVs in me, feeling great. I felt great once I kind of got in air conditioner. I was wanting to come back out because it stinks to win the race and you’re falling out,” Dillon said when finally on his postrace Zoom call. “But I gave it all. I left it all out there. At least I can say that, and left it all on the track.”
Dillon raced to his third career win and first since Daytona at the start of the 2018 season. It was Dillon and Reddick in the front on the final three restarts, the first after an incident with 29 laps left that shuffled the fast car of Ryan Blaney to a lap back.
“Not bad for a silver spoon kid, huh?” Dillon, the grandson of Childress, said immediately after the race. “Tyler Reddick, he raced me clean. 1-2 for RCR. This has been coming. We’ve had good cars all year. I’ve got my baby Ace back home, my wife. I’m just so happy.”
It was the first 1-2 finish for RCR in the Cup Series since Clint Bowyer won at Talladega in 2011 ahead of Jeff Burton.
Childress watched the race from a command center at the team’s race shop in North Carolina.
“I mean, it’s great. … Having Tyler right there, to work with, he’s got a teammate that he’s really working good with,” Childress said. “And to see both of those guys racing for the win, I knew they weren’t going to, I was hoping they didn’t wreck each other. It was pretty cool to see RCR in the front.”
On the final restart in Texas, Dillon got a good jump, holding off his rookie teammate and some veteran drivers.
Joey Logano finished third, with Kyle Busch fourth a day after he finished ahead of the field in two races — his Xfinity Series victory was taken away after his car failed a postrace inspection, and he then won the Trucks Series race. Series points leader Kevin Harvick, the winner of the last three fall races at Texas, was fifth.
“Can’t ask for much more than what we got there,” said Reddick, the Xfinity Series champion each of the past two seasons. “I just wanted it to be between us. I didn’t want bring other cars into it, make sure that we could fight it out. We just got the restarts that kept giving us opportunities.”
There were an estimated 15,000-20,000 spectators at the track, where it reached 97 degrees late in the first summertime Cup race at Texas — it was supposed to be a spring race nearly four months ago, before the coronavirus pandemic postponed and then shuffled NASCAR’s schedule. Inside the cars, it was 130-140 degrees.
After leading six times for 150 laps, both highs for the race, Blaney finished seventh.
Blaney, who had given up the lead when he pitted on Lap 287, fell a lap down after the field got shuffled when rookie Quin Houff crashed hard out of Turn 4.
Cole Custer, the rookie driver for Stewart-Haas Racing coming off a win last weekend at Kentucky, was one of 11 drivers involved in a chain-reaction crash on Lap 218 that brought out a red flag. His crumbled No. 41 Ford came to rest near the exit of pit road.
That pileup on the frontstretch came the lap after restart with most of the cars still jammed together as they came off the fourth turn, when Blaney appeared to be among several cars to get loose, though he was out in front of the melee when cars started crashing.
Track workers took water to drivers in their parked cars on their track during the red flag that lasted more than 11 minutes.
It was 30 degrees warmer than it was on March 29, when the race had been scheduled before the pandemic. Texas will host a playoff race Oct. 25.
Before four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Terry Bradshaw gave an emphatic command to start engines, he shouted hello to the “beautiful people” in the stands.
It was the first major sporting event in Texas in more than four months to allow spectators, and one of the largest gatherings of any kind in the state during the pandemic. The spectators were spread out along the frontstretch, which was fully shaded late in the race, and there were also people in about 40 suites.
Speedway Motorsports, which owns Bristol and Texas, is a private company like NASCAR, and does not release official attendance numbers. But there appeared to be about 20,000 fans at Bristol for the All-Star race last Wednesday night, and a similar crowd had been expected at Texas, where current regulations would have allowed 50% capacity at the track that seats about 135,000.
“These are the folks that wanted to be here. We never were trying to set an attendance record and I told y’all you’re going to turn on the TV and go, ‘nobody’s there,'” TMS president Eddie Gossage said during the race, without confirming any figures. “The truth is, there’s a pretty good number here. But still, a massive place.”