Austin Dillon on his big Bristol weekend: 'I'm just really happy'

BY foxsports • August 22, 2016

Austin Dillon's recent weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway could not have gone much better.

He celebrated the birthday of his fiancee, Whitney Ward, in style on Friday by winning the NASCAR XFINITY Series race. And he capped it by finishing fourth in the rain-delayed Sprint Cup race on Sunday, his best finish since coming home third at Talladega on May 1.

Dillon said afterward that he enjoyed running on the new surface at Bristol, which was altered in an effort to promote two grooves of racing. He said it reminded him of the racing he used to do on dirt track while making his way up to NASCAR's top national touring series.

"We had to adjust the car to get it free from the top and then back to tight on the bottom," Dillon said. "So, a lot of chasing grip. It was fun racing, man. It reminded me of the dirt days just trying to chase that grip, what we call brown (in dirt racing). Now it's black (at Bristol). It was a lot of fun."

After restarting third at Lap 450 of the 500-lap race, the 26-year-old driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing moved up to second and briefly challenged eventual race winner Kevin Harvick for the lead before falling back.

Afterward, he said he was whipped from a weekend of making tight circles around the 0.533-mile short track.

"My arms are worn out, I know that," he said.

Most importantly, it made for another strong finish in a season filling up with them. Prior to this season, Dillon had posted just two top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 85 career Sprint Cup starts. This season he now has four top-five and 10 top-10s in 23 starts, which translates into a solid 11th-place standings in the points.

Dillon has not yet officially clinched a berth in the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoffs. But after Bristol, and with just three more regular-season races remaining before the Chase cutoff, he's a virtual lock because he has the most points of all drivers who have not yet won a race this season.

Assuming Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher -- two drivers with wins who currently are behind him in the points -- make the Chase, Dillon still is in great position. If no other currently winless drivers in the top 30 in points go to Victory Lane in the next three races at Michigan, Darlington and Richmond, he would be the first of four drivers to claim berths based on points.

So it was no mystery why he left Bristol smiling when so many others left the short track in a foul mood after being caught up in accidents.

"It was a lot of fun," Dillon said. "I've got to thank the good Lord for keeping us out of all those wrecks. We dodged some big ones today. It was a solid points day. I'm just really happy."