Austin Dillon ready to assume 'underdog' role in next Chase round
Prior to Sunday's Chase for the Sprint Cup elimination race at Dover International Speedway, Austin Dillon was on the outside looking in.
Five points behind Kyle Larson, who entered the race with the 12th and final transfer spot, Dillon was in need of a solid race to move on to the Round of 12.
And remarkably, he was able to do just that.
After starting 14th, Dillon quietly hung around inside the top 15 throughout the race. But, Dillon's Chase hopes really came to life when disaster struck early for Larson.
On Lap 36, Larson was forced bring his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet down pit road with a battery issue. But, things quickly went from bad to worse when he was forced to serve a pass-through penalty for having too many crew members over the wall during the stop.
Dillon took full advantage of Larson's misfortune, bringing home the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in eighth and edging Larson by 11 points to advance in the Chase.
"Man, I was just glad (to advance)," Dillon said. "I don't care how many it was, whether it was 12 or 11 or 2 or 1, as long as we're in the next round. It feels good."
Dillon noted he wasn't sweating the pressure too much despite unknowns before the race.
"We didn't panic. I had a lot of people telling me not to worry," said Dillon. "We didn't have a good practice, and we had a fast race car today, a really fast race car. This is probably one of the fastest race cars we've had all year."
In hindsight, Dillon even admitted that he might have left a little on the table.
"I wanted to get more, but I knew what was at stake," he added. "I feel like we had a little bit of a right front issue that we were worried about, so I didn't want to push it too hard. We probably could have been a top-five car pretty simply there. I just didn't want to hurt our chances of making the Chase."
Now, Dillon is focused on potentially making some noise over the next three races.
"It's time to knock some more of these guys out because we've got this opportunity," Dillon said. "I want to say that we're going to be the underdog in this next round, so let's go do it."