Darlington showed Austin Dillon’s playoff appearance was no joke while Richmond was evidence he plans to stay around a while in the 2020 championship battle.
For the second consecutive week – and with the best possible timing – Dillon turned in one of the his top performances of the 2020 season in Saturday night’s Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.
Dillon opened the 2020 playoffs at Darlington with an impressive runner-up finish to winner Kevin Harvick. Saturday night, Dillon once again showed race-winning speed, led a career-high 55 laps and ended up fourth.
Two-thirds through the first round of the playoffs, Dillon – a driver many thought would be among the first to exit – instead has put himself in excellent position to advance to the Round of 12.
“This race team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters,” Dillon said. “I hope they keep doubting us. We have a lot of work, still. We’re putting ourselves in position to win and you do that long enough, it pays off.
“We need to keep running up front and the wins will click off. We got the one at Texas. We need to make it happen when we have cars like this.”
Fastest driver in Richmond
Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet clearly was one of the best cars on the track Saturday night but his charge to Victory Lane was hampered by a pair of pit road miscues.
He was penalized for speeding on pit road during pit stops after the conclusion of Stage 1 and then later in the final stage during a round of green-flag stops, Dillon missed the entrance to pit road on his first attempt which cost him about 3 seconds on the track.
“We were trying to bring everybody down (pit road),” Dillon said. “The No. 1 car (Kurt Busch) was in my mirror on tires. I overdrove that entry just a little bit thinking that I needed to avoid getting rear-ended.
“Then it was like ‘Oh no, I’m going to hit the red box’ so I had to make another lap around the track. That cost us three seconds. It probably killed our deal, but it was still early, so who knows.”
Dillon heads to next weekend’s final race of the first round at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway sixth in the playoff standings. The top 12 (of the original field of 16), including race winners during the round, advance after the Bristol race.
“It was a lot of fun out here tonight, and I think we had the best car, so thanks to (crew chief) Justin Alexander and everyone at RCR and ECR for giving us a solid Chevy,” Dillon said.
“We’re headed to Bristol Motor Speedway in a good spot, and it’s exciting to know we still have eight more chances to try and get another win. Our confidence level for Bristol is pretty high.”
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