Jimmie Johnson’s fuel outage gave Austin Dillon his first Cup win in 133rd start, the first win for the No. 3 car since October 2000.
Severe weather, fuel mileage and a near 17-year drought was snapped in a span of two days. North Carolina native Austin Dillon passed four-time Coca-Cola 600 winner Jimmie Johnson with two laps to go after Johnson ran out of fuel and captured his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord.
The race started Sunday evening but a long rain delay pushed the race’s ending time past midnight. Many competitors were angry after the race but it was all smiles in the Richard Childress Racing camp as Dillon’s maiden win marked the legendary No. 3 car’s first Cup win since Dale Earnhardt at Talladega Oct. 15, 2000.
Dillon was only 10-years-old, the controversial Presidential Election was less than a month away and gas price was $1.48 per gallon when Earnhardt won his 76th and final win of his Hall of Fame career.
In an interview, Dillon said the victory hasn’t sunk in when he arrived in victory lane.
“I can’t believe it,” Dillon said. “I was really focused those last laps. I never imagined to be here in Coke 600 victory lane. Praise the lord and all my guys who worked so hard. My pit crew is the best on pit road. I love it for them and we’re in the playoffs and that’s awesome.”
Dillon said he was trying to be patient battling Johnson for the win.
“I saw him saving fuel and thought I saved enough early where I can attack at the end but I waited as long as possible,” Dillon said. “When Johnson ran out, I went back into save mode where I was lifting and it worked out. I ran out of fuel at the line and it gurgled all the way around just to do one little spin and pushed it back to victory lane. The good lord was blessing us.”
Points leader Kyle Larson’s night ended on lap 293 after slapping the turn one wall and finished 33rd.
It’s Larson’s first DNF of the season and his eight-race streak of leading the points was gone.
Larson now trails new points leader Martin Truex, Jr. by four points.
Truex, Jr., the defending race winner who led 392 of 400 laps last May, returned to the 600-mile race leading the most laps once again (233 of 400 laps).
Truex, Jr. tried to hold off Kyle Busch for second in the closing laos but was unable to hold his position and finished third.
Busch said his car was the best he’s had at Charlotte but was dissatisfied finishing second.
“My car was really fast,” Busch said. “I was surprised I could close back in on Truex, Jr. and get him there at the end. to finish second. It was a frustrating night and I’m so, so disappointed. There’s nothing we could’ve done different. We just ran our own race and did what we needed to do and came up short.”
The Cup drivers will travel to the nation’s first state and compete in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Delaware June 4. Matt Kenseth is the defending race winner.