Austin Dillon had just finished in the top 10 for stage two at Michigan when a crash with Brad Keselowski ended his race. But what does Dillon’s Michigan wreck mean for his playoff hopes ahead of Daytona?
Keselowski crash leaves Dillon’s playoff hopes slim
On the final lap of stage two at Michigan, Richard Childress Racing’s Dillon was fighting Brad Keselowski for sixth place.
The #3 RCR managed to pip the #2 Team Penske driver to the position, collecting valuable points in his hunt for a playoff spot.
Dillon dove to the apron to cross the line, but the right rear of his Camaro tagged Keselowski’s front left.
As a result, Dillon was spat into the outside wall, destroying the car and nearly rolling over.
Keselowski was relatively undamaged and finished ninth as teammate Ryan Blaney scored the win.
RCR has struggled for headline results this season, with Dillon and teammate Tyler Reddick fighting over a playoff berth.
With Kevin Harvick now locked in on points, 15 of the 16 slots are filled, leaving just one available.
Pre-race Reddick held a 28 point lead over Dillon.
Thanks to Dillon’s third and sixth place stage finishes before the wreck, he has slightly reduced the gap to 25 points.
Going to the regular season finale at Daytona on Saturday, Dillon must win to book his place.
What did Dillon say about crash and playoff hopes?
“It was the best race car we brought as RCR to the race track this year,” he said to the NBC broadcast after being released from the infield care centre.
“I was just trying to get as many stage points as I could.
“Did a good job side-drafting, came down to the apron and I’ve seen just one quick replay.
“It was after the start/finish line. I figured he [Keselowski] would have given me a little room.
“I thought I had a little room to come up, and he just held me down there a little bit too long, I guess.”
Despite Richard Childress himself declaring “I can kick his ass,” about Keselowski, the #2 was apologetic for his part.
“I hate that I had contact with the three,” he said.
“That really sucks for everybody. It really hurt our day and obviously ruined his.”
What is Dillon’s form like at Daytona?
Since his full-time Cup debut in 2014, Dillon has fared well at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
He won the 2018 Daytona 500, 20 years after Dale Earnhardt Sr drove the iconic #3 machine to victory lane.
Dillon also took third in this season’s 500, and was in contention for the win.
However, the caution was brought out around Turn 3 on the final lap after the fiery multiple car accident.
He has mixed results in the second Daytona race – with a best result of fifth in 2014, although there are three top 10s included.
In the 2015 event, he was classified seventh but survived a vicious accident on the front-stretch in overtime.