LONG POND, Pa.—Austin Dillon had to work hard in the final 10 laps, then work overtime to claim his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season.
Dillon, 24, took the lead from Clint Bowyer on a restart with eight laps remaining, then maintained his advantage on two more restarts to triumph in a green-white-checkered finish in Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway.
Driving his No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, Dillon relaxed Toyota’s stranglehold in the 2014 NCWTS. Toyota drivers had won the previous 10 races this season and 12 in a row dating back to last season.
When Bowyer struggled on the final restart, Dillon used a push from eventual runner-up Johnny Sauter to pull away from the field for his sixth career victory in 60 truck starts.
Dillon’s victory reinforced the excellence of the drivers involved in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle. Dillon currently sits 13th in the Cup Series points standings, one spot behind Kyle Larson, who not only earned the pole for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 Sprint Cup race, but captured Saturday’s pole in his second truck start of the season.
And Larson appeared to have the dominant truck early on Saturday. His Chevrolet led the first 18 laps from the pole but dealt with a sputtering engine late in the race and finished 18th.
“Kyle is a great race car driver but I think I’m just as good or better,” Dillon said. “We’re going to race him every week hard and figure out a way to be there at the end for Rookie of the Year.”
Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress, expressed concern when the No. 3 truck was two seconds off the pace on its first practice laps of the weekend but was glowing after crew chief Nick Harrison whipped it into shape. Childress has enjoyed a good week with his other grandson, Ty, winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis last Saturday.
“Last week kind of rejuvenated all of us,” Childress said. “To (win) those restarts like Austin did today – four times in a row with a Cup driver on the inside – says a lot about his desire to win.”
Sauter enjoyed a good points day, pulling to within seven points of series leader Ryan Blaney, who retained first place with his fifth-place finish in the No. 29 Ford.
“I gave the No. 3 (Dillon) the best push I could and finally pushed him too far for me to have a run at him at the end,” Sauter said. “My mentality on restarts here is I don’t care what’s going on behind me. I’m not looking in the mirror. I’m going to keep pushing until I can’t push no more, and that’s basically what we did there with the No. 3 truck.”
Joey Coulter rallied from sixth on the final restart to finish third with Bowyer fourth.
The late-race drama unfolded thanks to a pair of incidents involving Tyler Reddick and German Quiroga Jr. – action that ultimately led to NASCAR parking Reddick for rough driving.
Battling hard for sixth place, the first incident created a restart with four laps to go. Then, with the race nearing conclusion, Reddick bounced off contact with Tyler Young and rammed the rear quarter of Quiroga for a second time, leading to his summons and forcing the race into overtime.
Dillon’s power combined with the advantage of the outside line proved no match for Bowyer or anyone else on the final restart.
“Honestly, we had a third-place truck,” said Bowyer, who led 10 laps. “The 32 (Larson) having problems kind of gave Austin and I an opportunity at (winning) it.”
Bowyer drove the No. 5 Toyota, replacing John Wes Townley, who was hospitalized after a crash in Friday’s ARCA race practice. Townley, who said he felt a “pop” in his neck returned to the track Saturday but was not medically cleared to race.