Austin Dillon Wins the Daytona 500 in the Iconic No. 3

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL – RIS – It was a storybook ending for some and a frustrating ending for others.  Austin Dillion took the No. 3 Chevrolet to victory lane in the Daytona 500 after the last few laps turned into a train wreck, or something that looked like one.  Dillon took the lead in overtime after bumping leader Aric Almirola on the final lap and, one of many such incidents at the World Center of Speed on Sunday.

The No. 3 last won the 500 with Dale Earnhardt driving 20 years ago this week. Dillon was seven when Earnhardt won the 500.

“I want to thank the Good Lord above,” Dillon said. “I hate it for the No. 10 guys. It’s so awesome to take the No. 3 back to Victory Lane.”

Dillon wasn't a factor in his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet until the final lap in overtime when he got a push from Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. that helped him get into leader Aric Almirola. Dillon spun Almirola then whizzed on by to give Childress, his grandfather, an iconic victory.

The race marked the end of star Danica Patrick's NASCAR career, which came to a close earlier than expected as she crashed in a multi-car accident. Patrick's final race will be the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Wallace Jr. finished second, followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Chris Beuscher.

Chase Elliott and former Cup Series Champions Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick also crashed, ending their Daytona 500 hopes early.

Dillon is just the second driver to win the Daytona 500 after leading only the final lap, following Kurt Busch last year, according officials at the track.

Wallace's second-place finish is the best by an African-American driver in the Daytona 500; he is just the second African-American driver to run in the Daytona 500.

Wendell Scott is the only other African-American driver to run in the race. He finished 13th in 1966.

Ryan Blaney led 118 laps but was caught in a big melee with two laps remaining. As usual at Daytona, a lot of big names weren’t even around for the final laps. Drivers like Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, and plate ace Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., all crashed for one reason or another and failed to survive until the final run.

Fittingly, Dillon’s comments were ironic, seeing as how Earnhardt had a reputation of “rattling the chain” of other drivers.

"I did what I had to do at the end,” Dillon said.  "This is for Dale Sr. and all those Earnhardt fans. We're going to keep kicking butt the rest of the year."

Wallace justified car owner Richard Petty’s faith in him with the runner-up position. 

"I got so many emotions right now," Wallace said. "All in all a great day. Just an incredible experience for me to be here. Thank you to The King (Petty) for giving me this opportunity. Hell of an ending for us tonight. P2 for my first Daytona 500, I'll take it."

Defending Daytona 500 champion Kurt Busch tried to pass race leader Hamlin with two laps to go but contact from behind by Ryan Blaney turned Busch, leading to a huge multi-car crash. Alex Bowman, Brendan Gaughan, Matt DiBenedetto and Stenhouse were also involved. The race then headed to overtime with Hamlin and Aric Almirola on the front row.  Then came the push from Dillon and the trip to victory lane.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup drivers next head to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend, which drivers will probably welcome.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race Number 1

Unofficial Race Results for the 60th Annual Daytona 500 - Thursday, February 15, 2018 - Daytona International Speedway
Fin, Str, Driver, Car, Laps, Status, Pts, Tms Led, St1, St2, Laps, Playoff Pts
1) 14, Austin Dillon, No. 3 Dow Chevrolet, 207, Running, 42, 1, , 9, 1, 5
2) 7, Darrell Wallace Jr. #, No. 43 Click n' Close Chevrolet, 207, Running, 39, , , 7, ,
3) 2, Denny Hamlin, No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota, 207, Running, 35, 4, , 10, 22,
4) 5, Joey Logano, No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, 207, Running, 41, 1, , 3, 3,
5) 21, Chris Buescher, No. 37 Kleenex Chevrolet, 207, Running, 32, , , , ,
6) 16, Paul Menard, No. 21 OmnicraftAutoParts/QuickLaneTire&AutoCntr Ford, 207, Running, 42, 1, 9, 2, 1,
7) 3, Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Menards/Peak Ford, 207, Running, 48, 5, 3, 1, 118, 1
8) 13, Ryan Newman, No. 31 Bass Pro Shops/Cabela's Chevrolet, 207, Running, 29, , , , ,
9) 22, Michael McDowell, No. 34 Love's Travel Stops Ford, 207, Running, 39, , 6, 5, ,
10) 20, AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Kroger ClickList Chevrolet, 207, Running, 27, 1, , , 1,
11) 37, Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford, 206, Running, 33, 1, , 4, 1,
12) 29, Justin Marks(i), No. 51 HARRY'S Chevrolet, 206, Running, 0, 1, , , 1,
13) 18, Trevor Bayne, No. 6 AdvoCare Ford, 206, Running, 28, , 10, 8, ,
14) 39, * David Gilliland(i), No. 92 Black's Tire Service/Carquest Auto Parts Ford, 206, Running, 0, , , , ,
15) 10, Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford, 206, Running, 22, , , , ,
16) 19, Jamie McMurray, No. 1 McDonald's/Cessna Chevrolet, 205, Running, 21, , , , ,
17) 1, Alex Bowman, No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet, 205, Running, 29, 2, 2, , 13,
18) 24, Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour Energy Toyota, 205, Running, 30, 1, 5, 6, 4,
19) 38, Kyle Larson, No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet, 204, Running, 18, , , , ,
20) 34, Gray Gaulding, No. 23  Toyota, 204, Running, 17, , , , ,
21) 27, Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 00 VRX Simulators Chevrolet, 204, Running, 16, , , , ,
22) 40, * Mark Thompson, No. 66 Phoenix Air Racing Ford, 203, Running, 15, , , , ,
23) 33, William Byron #, No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet, 203, Running, 14, , , , ,
24) 30, * DJ Kennington, No. 96 LORDCO/Castrol Toyota, 201, Running, 13, , , , ,
25) 12, Kyle Busch, No. 18 M&M's Toyota, 200, Running, 12, , , , ,
26) 11, Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford, 198, Accident, 21, 3, 1, , 16, 1
27) 36, Matt DiBenedetto, No. 32 The Hurricane Heist Ford, 198, Accident, 10, , , , ,
28) 25, * Brendan Gaughan, No. 62 BeardOilDistributing/SouthPointHotel&Casino Chev, 198, Accident, 9, , , , ,
29) 9, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Fastenal Ford, 197, Accident, 15, 1, 4, , 11,
30) 15, David Ragan, No. 38 Speedco Ford, 107, Accident, 7, , , , ,
31) 6, Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Jimmy John's Ford, 105, Accident, 10, , 7, , ,
32) 31, Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford, 102, Accident, 5, , , , ,
33) 4, Chase Elliott, No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, 101, Accident, 7, 1, 8, , 4,
34) 26, Kasey Kahne, No. 95 Procore Chevrolet, 101, Accident, 3, , , , ,
35) 28, Danica Patrick, No. 7 GoDaddy Chevrolet, 101, Accident, 2, , , , ,
36) 8, Erik Jones, No. 20 DEWALT Toyota, 59, Accident, 1, 1, , , 11,
37) 17, Daniel Suarez, No. 19 ARRIS Toyota, 59, Accident, 1, , , , ,
38) 35, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's for Pros Chevrolet, 59, Accident, 1, , , , ,
39) 23, Ty Dillon, No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, 59, Accident, 1, , , , ,
40) 32, Corey LaJoie, No. 72 Schulter Systems Chevrolet, 8, Engine, 1, , , , ,

(i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, (#) Rookie, (*) Non-franchise team
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 26 Mins, 15 Secs.
Total Race Length - 207 Laps - 517.5 Miles Average Speed: 150.545 MPH
Margin of Victory: 0.260 Seconds
Race Comments: Austin Dillon won the 60th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. Prior to the start of the race, the following cars dropped to the rear of the field under penalty: Nos. 2, 3, 10, 24, 32, 42, 48, 92 (backup cars).
Caution Flags: 8 for 37 laps: Laps: 10-12 (No. 72 Incident Turn 2 [None]); 52-55 (No. 18, 96, 1 Incident Turn 3 [23]); 61-66 (No. 24, 20, 13, 19, 48, 17, 12, 78, 42 Incident Backstretch [11]); 94-97 (Debris Backstretch [23]); 103-108 (No. 9, 7, 4, 34, 78, 2, 95 Incident Turn 3 [22]); 122-126 (Stage 2 Conclusion [24]); 191-193 (No. 24 Spin Turn 4 [22]); 200-205 (No. 41, 78, 32, 17, 62, 12, 88, 31, 22, 43, 00, 47 Incident Turn 2 [34]).
Lead Changes: 24 among 14 drivers: A. Bowman 0; D. Hamlin 1-10; J. Marks(i) 11; Kurt Busch 12-14; A. Bowman 15-22; E. Jones 23-33; R. Stenhouse Jr. 34-44; C. Elliott 45-48; J. Logano 49-51; Kurt Busch 52-62; A. Bowman 63-67; R. Blaney 68-93; P. Menard 94; M. Truex Jr. 95-98; R. Blaney 99-122; A. Allmendinger 123; R. Blaney 124-170; D. Hamlin 171-173; R. Blaney 174-193; D. Hamlin 194; Kurt Busch 195-196; R. Blaney 197; D. Hamlin 198-205; A. Almirola 206; A. Dillon 207;
American Ethanol Green Flag Restart Award:  Joey Logano, No. 22
Mahle Clevite Engine Builder of the Race:  Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines (ECR), No. 3
Moog Go the Extra Mile:  Denny Hamlin, No. 11 0.355 secs
Sherwin-Williams Fastest Lap:  Kyle Larson, No. 42
Sunoco Rookie of the Race:  Darrell Wallace Jr, No. 43 

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2018, Issue 2, Posted 8:02 PM, 02.18.2018