Credit Chuck Burton/Associated Press
CONCORD, N.C. — The horde of 20-somethings and teenagers — such as Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and William Byron — who are poised to take over Nascar seems to grow larger every week. It might be time to add an older candidate, Austin Dillon, to the “Who’s next?” breakout list.
Dillon, a Nascar veteran at 27, pulled off an upset at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night, staying out of the pit on the final laps to make up ground and capture the Coca-Cola 600. Dillon held off the hard-charging Kyle Busch, who finished second, and Martin Truex Jr., who was third, and he had enough fuel to reach the finish line after sweeping past Jimmie Johnson, who ran out of gas two laps from the end.
The win gave Dillon his first trophy in the Cup Series, returned Dale Earnhardt’s black No. 3 car to victory lane for the first time in 17 years and boosted the team owned by Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress. Did it also put Dillon front and center among the racers supplanting the departing stars Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and, after this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
Dillon was not sure.
“It’s all about performance, he said. “Those guys are performing, so they’re going to talk about them. I knew we could do it, we’ve just got to do it more consistently. When we do, they’ll talk about us, too.”
Dillon’s performance at Charlotte had lots of people talking.
His new crew chief, Justin Alexander, saw no other strategy at the end than to keep racing while most other contenders made a pit stop with about 35 laps left. No one, Alexander reasoned, would outrun Truex’s car with fresh tires and plenty of gas, so the best chance was to maintain their position.