Sunday, July 11, 2010
Dillon holds off Sauter in Iowa
NEWTON, Iowa -- The black No. 3 Chevrolet is back in victory lane, because of a precocious rookie who finally took advantage of his considerable promise.
Rookie Austin Dillon held off Johnny Sauter in a green-white-checkered finish and picked up his first career win at Sunday's NASCAR Trucks Series race in Iowa.
The 20-year-old Dillon won from the pole, becoming the second-youngest driver to win a truck series race behind Kyle Busch.
It was also the first time the black No. 3 won in any series since Dale Earnhardt's death in 2001, a fact not lost on the promising Dillon.
"It's pretty awesome. Like I've said from the beginning of the year, I wanted to do it for the fans too. I know they want to see it out front," Dillon said. "I'm glad to sit in the No. 3. It's my favorite number to run, and hopefully I can run it for a long time."
He will if he runs like he did on Sunday, expertly piloting a truck third-place finisher Matt Crafton called "stupid fast."
The grandson of longtime NASCAR owner Richard Childress kept his car clean while a number of top drivers ran into trouble.
The top four in the points standings -- Todd Bodine, Aric Almirola, Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday Jr. -- all experienced issues that hampered their shots at catching Dillon.
Sauter finished second followed by Crafton, Ken Schrader and James Buescher.
Dillon, the first rookie to win the pole for three straight races, opened a healthy edge from the outset. He led Brian Ickler by nearly 3 seconds only 30 laps in, easily surpassing his previous career high of 20 laps led at Texas earlier this year.
Dillon led for 187 laps and appeared ready to cruise to victory until the end, when a caution forced a late restart. But with his famous grandfather/team owner keeping him calm, Dillon rolled past Sauter for the win.
"I put enough pressure on myself to go out and do the best I can every time I get in that car," Dillon said. "This just proves we can do it."
The truck series was making its second annual stop at Iowa Speedway, an 0.875-mile oval about 35 miles east of Des Moines. But the nearly 25,000 fans in attendance didn't get to see much of the circuit's top stars.
Bodine, the series points leader, was among a number of drivers affected by a crash just over halfway through the race. Ickler got loose in a tight spot shortly after a restart and drifted into Bodine, who went into the wall.
The wreck knocked out Hornaday, who remained winless on the year. Bodine let Ickler know how he felt about the crash by giving his No. 18 car a bump from behind before the race went green.
Bodine finished 17th but kept his hold on first place in points.
Truck problems ruined the afternoon for both Almirola and Peters -- who entered Iowa in second and third place in the points standings -- before the race was barely half over.
Almirola, who started on the front row with Dillon, blew a front tire 76 laps in and hit the wall, erasing any chance he had at his third win in five races. Peters blew his engine halfway through the race and finished 27th.
Any edge Steve Wallace might have had at a track designed by his father, former NASCAR star Rusty Wallace, ended when he blew a tire and skidded into the wall early in the race.
Mike Skinner, who won the inaugural race at Iowa from the pole last year, qualified 15th but moved up for a seventh-place finish.
The race Sunday was the first for the truck series since June 12 in Michigan. The drivers won't get another break for two months, during a nine-race stretch that will be critical to their championship hopes.
Now that Dillon has the black No. 3 running strong, he's got a chance to be a real factor in the points race by the time the circuit takes another break.
"There's nobody that can sit here and tell you they had a better truck than he did," Sauter said of Dillon. "He dominated the race."