By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
Austin Dillon is off to a hot start in this 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
Following a second-place finish last week at Darlington Raceway, the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing driver backed it up with a fourth-place run in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 from Richmond Raceway.
“This No. 3 team is on fire right now and showing up when it matters,” Dillon said. “A great run. It’s a lot of fun out here.
“I have a line here and it’s been working. I run lower on the straightaways and it gives me good forward-drive. I saw other guys picking it up and laying the rubber down. It may have hurt us a little at the end.”
Leading a career-high 55 laps on the night, Dillon was a common face up front throughout the clean-and-green 400-lapper. Starting third, he jumped up to the lead on lap 21. And even after a pit road penalty following the Stage 1 break, Dillon broke the top 10 by lap 150.
Dillon retained the race lead again under pit strategy, however, fell behind eventual race winner Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano to take fourth.
Dillon lost time to the top three due to a pit mistake on the final run, where Dillon missed pit entry and had to turn another lap. To Dillon’s estimate, it cost the No. 3 team three seconds on track.
“It’s unfortunate. We had a speeding penalty on pit road and to come back and get second in that stage, that was so awesome,” he said.
“When I came to pit road, I was trying to bring everybody [the leaders] down. The No. 1 car [Kurt Busch] was in my mirror with tires. I overdrove that entry a little thinking I needed to not get rear-ended. Then I was going to hit the red box, so I had to make another lap. It cost us three seconds.”
Despite the error, the final result was his fourth top five of the year, tying his career-best. Additionally, it was the first time he has scored back-to-back top fives in his Cup career.
“We’re in a good spot,” he said. “We’ll go to Bristol and do what we need to do to get to the next round. We haven’t been here and we’re new to this, so we go to keep running up here and those wins are going to start clicking off.”
Entering the night 10 points above the cutline of the Round of 12, Dillon now exits Richmond up 36 points after the strong night.
“I hope they keep doubting us,” he said. “We have a lot of work still. We’re putting ourselves in position to win and if you do that long enough, it pays off.”
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 13, 2020