For Austin Dillon and the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team, the opportunity to advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup came down to a tiebreaker after Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Avoiding trouble throughout the entire event, Dillon maneuvered his way into the top 10 on the final green-white-checkered restart in the No. 3 American Ethanol Chevrolet. While he was able to finish the day ninth, Dillon was tied with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot in the Chase standings. The tiebreaker was determined by the highest finish of the Round of 12, with Hamlin getting the position based off his third-place finish Sunday at Talladega.
Although the two drivers were tied at the end of the race, it was truly a matter of inches that kept Dillon from advancing to the next round. On the final lap, Hamlin was able to edge Kurt Busch for the third spot by 0.006 seconds. That small gap allowed Hamlin to gain another point, putting him in a tie with Dillon.
Disappointed the team’s championship hopes were now over, Dillon said he did all he could to get the best finish possible in an attempt to move on to the Round of 8.
“I just tried to get as many spots as I could,” said Dillon. “(I) pulled out of the line, gained a few. Man, perfect storm kind of. It was working out really good in the middle of the race when the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.), 2 (Brad Keselowski) kind of fell out. We made it to where we needed to with just a green, white checkered. We’re up there in the pack, teammates behind us. Weren’t able to pull it off. But it was close. I got to thank the teammates that helped me out, though.
“The 31 (Ryan Newman) dove in behind me. The 31 helped a ton today,” he said. “He was glued to my back bumper the last couple laps. That was really nice.”
Although the chance to compete for the title have come to an end, Dillon and his Slugger Labbe-led team are determined to finish the 2016 season out on a strong note.
“Four tracks left. Just want to finish in the top 10 in points,” said Dillon. “Obviously that would be very great. If we can do that, that would be successful. But sure stinks to miss it by a tiebreaker going on to the next group of cars. But thankful for the opportunity that I’ve been given and we’ll keep working.”
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) October 24, 2016