Austin Dillon runs away with Drive for the Cure 300 XFINITY race
Austin Dillon dodged fireworks before the race and then enjoyed them afterward when he coasted to an XFINITY Series victory in the Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night.
Dillon led 61 laps and help off Erik Jones to complete a season sweep at the track. The Sprint Cup driver, who has four victories this season in the series, also won the XFINITY race at the track in May
Dillon’s night started with a scare when fireworks from a pre-race celebration landed near his back as he was leaning on his No. 33 Chevrolet after introductions. He pulled his girlfriend — Tennessee Titans NFL cheerleader Whitney Ward — aside to safety when the fireworks hit.
The pole sitter was startled when the fireworks landed on his car, causing him to jump out of the way along with his girlfriend. He let out a wide smile after realizing what had happened.
"I was actually praying, and then fireworks hit me in the back. I don’t know if that was a sign from God or what, but He got me going (by giving me) a firework in the butt," a laughing Dillon said in Victory Lane afterward.
Dillon’s fire suit was slightly singed — and as it turned out, those weren’t the only fireworks on the night.
Once the race started, it looked at first as if fellow Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch would be the car to beat.
Busch led 102 laps before his night ended when he hit the wall after Kasey Kahne tapped him from behind with 50 laps remaining, angering Busch. But Kahne did not apologize for it afterward.
"Kyle got mad because he got into it with his teammate (Erik Jones) off Turn 2 on the start," Kahne said. "That shuffled him back to where I was, so I was racing to get by him. He’s down on me in the corners, and I’m up against him on the straightaway, just doing normal stuff. Then he starts beating on me down the front and the back, and then I overdrove Turn 3 and got into him.
"But I don’t know why he started beating on me. I think he was frustrated because his teammate kind of used him up and got away from him a little bit coming off Turn 2."
Dillon took advantage from there, beating Erik Jones on the ensuing restart. He led the race the rest of the way.
Series leader Chris Buescher finished seventh in the race to maintain his points lead over defending series champion Chase Elliott and Regan Smith.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.