Austin Dillon’s Playoff chances slip further away after brutal Atlanta crash

By Summer Bedgood, Managing Editor

Austin Dillon entered Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway hoping to make up some ground in the Playoff bubble. With Atlanta’s recent reconfiguration racing more like a miniature superspeedway instead of the mile-and-a-half that it is, Dillon had reason to believe he could potentially make it to victory lane, having enjoyed some solid runs at NASCAR’s “real” superspeedways – Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway – in the past, including a win in the 2018 Daytona 500. 

And a win is likely what it would take to get Dillon in the Playoffs, as he entered Sunday’s race 20th in points (only 16 drivers make the Playoffs), 94 points behind the cutoff line. 

The driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet had a lot of work to do when the green flag waved, starting the race in the 26th position. However, he had worked his way up to 11th and was racing for a spot in the top 10 when disaster struck.

Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr. were racing for position in the top five, when Truex got a little bit loose in turn two. Chastain got into the back of Truex’s No. 19 car, spinning Truex and collecting several other cars – including Dillon.

Dillon made heavy contact with the outside wall, but walked away unscathed. 

His car, not so much. The No. 3 car would have to be towed back to the garage area due to the severe damage, ending the team’s day after only 90 laps.

“Man, I’m so bummed out for this entire Bass Pro Shops / TRACKER Off Road team,” said Dillon after being evaluated and released from the infield care center. “We had a fast Chevy today – just ended up a victim of someone else’s mess. Our Chevy was really tight on the first run, then loose on the second run. After that, we were really good and coming. We just had nowhere to go. Thank the Good Lord above that we were okay.”

“The hit looked bad, but the impact wasn’t as bad as it looked,” he continued. “I told myself that we were going to race hard all day rather than riding in the back, but when you got guys out there wrecking half the field, you might as well pick a different strategy. These Next Gen cars are hard to drive, and you’ve got to make them drive better when it’s hot outside.

“I thought we did a good job making my car get to the bottom. We were making a lot of headway in the race before we got caught up in someone else’s mess. We’re going to keep on keeping on, and work each week to get to Victory Lane. I want to thank Johnny Morris and all of the guys at Bass Pro Shops and TRACKER Off Road, along with everyone at RCR and ECR. We will get there.”

Dillon and the No. 3 team would be credited with a 35th-place finish (out of a 36-car field) and now have even more ground to make up for the Playoffs, as they sit 117 points back with seven races left in the regular season. Realistically, it will take a win for the No. 3 team to make it.

Thankfully for Dillon, the last race of the regular season is at Daytona, a track where he has found success before. 

The next race on the schedule is the Ambetter 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, July 17th. Dillon finished 17th when the series was last there in July of 2021. 

Coverage begins at 3:00 PM ET on USA Network.

Featured Photo Credit: Photo by NKP / NKP Photo

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