Austin Dillon showed that his dominating performance at Kentucky Speedway earlier this season wasn’t a fluke. When the NASCAR Nationwide Series visited Kentucky Speedway at the beginning of July, Dillon put on a dominating performance, leading all but eight laps in the 200-lap event on his way to the race win. But after that race, his car failed post-race inspection. The win stood, but the victory did seem a little tarnished.
On Saturday, Dillon won at Kentucky again in that same No. 3. It wasn’t a dominant performance like before, though. Instead, he led a total of 65 laps en route to the win.
“This one wasn’t easy,” Dillon said, even though his No. 3 team returned to Kentucky with the same car that was dominant in July.
Taking advantage of problems for the top-two in points, Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Dillon remained third in points but closed to within 19 markers of new leader Sadler.
“It’s all about how bad you want it, and I want this championship real bad right now,” Dillon said.
Dillon started the race from the pole, but Stenhouse got out front at the start to lead the first lap. Stenhouse remained out front until the yellow flag waved for a competition caution on lap 30. He went from the lead to restarting the race 23rd after contact with Eric McClure on pit road.
After scraping the wall and cutting down a right rear tire several laps later, Stenhouse was forced to make a green-flag stop for repairs on lap 50. By the end of the race, he was three laps down in 17th.
“Just made too many mistakes today,” Stenhouse said after the race.
Sadler took over after Stenhouse’s misfortune and dominated the race, leading a race-high 90 laps. Dillon was his closest competitor and the two RCR teammates battled for the lead several times, but Sadler kept getting the upper hand.
That all changed during a cycle of green-flag stops on lap 145. Dillon cycled around to the lead, with Sadler in second. Soon after, Sadler began losing positions because of a power steering issue.
“We lost our power sterring,” Sadler said. “We had them killed, man. Nobody could touch us today. We were so freaking fast.”
As Dillon continued to lead, Sadler lost several more positions, but near the end, he was able to drive back up to fifth spot. He wound up finishing fifth, despite the steering issue, to retake the points lead Stenhouse took from him a week earlier at Chicagoland Speedway. Sadler left Kentucky with a four-point lead over Stenhouse.
Sam Hornish Jr. finished the race in the second spot, Brendan Gaughan was third, and Drew Herring drove the No. 18 to a fourth-place finish
– Photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR
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