• Sat. Apr 1st, 2023

Austin Dillon completes ‘Hail Mary’ with Daytona win

ByStaff Report

Aug 28, 2022
Austin Dillon celebrates in Victory Lane

Photo courtesy of Meg Oliphant | Getty Images

Rain on the track, the field wrecks on a wet track and by the miracle of racing magic, Austin Dillon overcame the dampness and chaos in front of him to stay alive in Sunday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

After a weather delay that lasted over three hours, Dillon was able to hold off a group of underdogs to score his first victory of 2022 to clinch the 15th spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

With Dillon’s win, he becomes the 16th different winner this season and has clinched his spot in the playoffs.

“Every time you make the playoffs, it’s validation to yourself that you are one of the guys,” Dillon said after the race. “We’ve made it five times now and every time we’re not in it, it doesn’t feel good. You’re not going to the bank with that at the end of the year and you feel like you let your company and everybody down.”

Due to Dillon’s win, Martin Truex Jr. is out of the playoffs and missed the postseason by 3 points as Ryan Blaney gained enough spots across the final 16 laps to take the 16th postseason spot.

Dillon’s Richard Childress Racing teammate Tyler Reddick pushed him to victory and scored the runner-up finish, which was the result of Dillon’s most-recent victory that came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2020 (78 races ago).

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric placed third, followed by Landon Cassill and Noah Gragson, who rounded out the top five. Cody Ware, BJ McLeod, Truex, David Ragan and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 10.

It was career-high finishes for Cassill, Gragson, Ware and McLeod in the NASCAR Cup Series.

The race went to a red flag with 23 to go as heavy rain hit the track. When the rain hit, racing was still taking place and when the pack hit Turn 1 with rain piling into the corners, the field lost grip and most of the field wrecked.

After the wreck, the race was placed under red flag conditions as it continued to rain.

There were multiple accounts from drivers from where the rain started. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Kyle Busch said there was no rain a lap before the wreck, while Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley was upset that the caution was not thrown sooner.

“It was pouring as we went into Turn 1,” Haley said to NBC Sports. “I mean you see it right there, so, I don’t know, you’d think we would be a little more on top of that, definitely.”

NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller joined NBC Sports’ Rick Allen and Steve Letarte in the broadcast booth and said he believes there was nothing different they could have done in the situation.

“We were on top of the weather monitoring it with all of our turn spotters, in touch with the spotters up top, the pace car,” Miller said. “We had all the information that we thought we’d been dodging a little bit of weather obviously for a little while, nothing had hit, and all of a sudden there was that shower. I guess the pace car was sitting down there on the inside, it was still dry when they racked and if you watched the in car you could see that some rain definitely started right before they wrecked.”

The Daytona calamity began late in Stage 1 and Blaney’s playoff hopes looked to dwindle when Erik Jones got loose off Turn 2 and the No. 12 hit Denny Hamlin, sending the No. 11 Toyota spinning and inciting a wreck that collected Brad Keselowski and Christopher Bell as well.

Due to the wreck, Keselowski will miss the postseason for the first time since 2013.

The large wreck was just one part of a final stage that up to that point have been full of calamity.

With 59 laps to go, Front Row Motorsports No. 34 driver Michael McDowell hit the wall and then collected Spire Motorsports No. 7 driver Corey LaJoie in a mulit-car wreck. JGR’s Martin Truex Jr., who is on the points bubble, was also involved.


Then, with 36 to go, Stewart-Haas Racing driver No. 14 Chase Briscoe went into the wall and went into the air, but did not flip. More cars were involved in the accident, including 23XI Racing No. 23 Bubba Wallace and Dillon, who slid sideways down pit road.

With only 10 cars on the lead lap and 16 still on track when the race resumed after the lengthy rain delay, there was a glimmer of hope for Blaney to outpoint Truex.

That hope shined bright with under 10 to go as Truex lost the lead draft and was bumped outside the top five as Gragson and Reddick got aggressive to get to the front.

With the damage Truex sustained in the final stage, he lost the speed needed to compete for a top five. He settled for an eighth-place result while Blaney got up to 15th.

“Just not fast enough to keep up with those guys,” Truex said to NBC Sports. “It’s a shame. It stinks. Hindsight is 20/20 and we gave away plenty of points away throughout the season. It is what it is.”

“Our fate was not really in our hands,” Blaney said. “It was a roller coaster of emotions and luckily, it needed on a high note for our group.”

The official 2022 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field consists of:

  • Chase Elliott
  • Joey Logano
  • Ross Chastain
  • Kyle Larson
  • William Byron
  • Denny Hamlin
  • Ryan Blaney
  • Tyler Reddick
  • Kevin Harvick
  • Christopher Bell
  • Kyle Busch
  • Chase Briscoe
  • Daniel Suárez
  • Austin Cindric
  • Alex Bowman
  • Austin Dillon

The Round of 16 for the Cup Series playoffs begins at Darlington Raceway Sunday Sept. 4 for the Cook Out Southern 500. The race is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET and will air on USA Network.

Official race results:

Driver points: