Ty Dillon simultaneously beat Kyle Busch and fuel efficiency en route to his first win on the Nationwide circuit at the Lilly Diabetes 250 on Saturday evening.
As if that wasn't good enough, Dillon also earned the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus:
After the win, he thanked his pit crew and said he was looking forward to kissing the famous bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, via Dustin Long of Motor Racing Network:
The No. 3 car led the last 24 laps of the race, just to put into perspective how well he closed. Busch was never able to regain the lead after struggling on a restart.
The only drama at the end of the race was whether either driver would run out of gas. Both decided not to make one last pit stop to fuel up, so they were forced to ration what they had for the most important moments of the race, per NASCAR on ESPN:
Busch's pit crew decided to slow down until the final stretch and then push the car as hard as it could go. That plan unraveled, though, as Dillon opened up so large a lead that Busch was unable to make any movement up the leaderboard.
Dillon was even forced to tone it down in the final five laps to ensure he'd have enough fuel left to finish, per Bob Pockrass of Sporting News:
Yet he finished the race without any problems. What his win lacked in theater, it made up for with appreciation of Dillon's performance.
You can see the rest of the top 10 below, via NASCAR.com.
|Lilly Diabetes 250 Top 10|
Here's a look at how Sunday's race impacted the points standings, via ESPN.com.
|Nationwide Series Points Standings|
Saturday was a good day to be a Sprint Cup driver. Some fans believe that drivers shouldn't be able to double dip; they either run the Sprint Cup or Nationwide Series. The race illustrated the difference between the experienced vets and the emerging drivers, even if Dillon got the better of Busch in the end.
Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano all led at least one lap throughout the race, and for the most part, they were hanging around the lead. Six of the top eight finishers on Saturday were Sprint Cup drivers.
Logano in particular got off to a great start. He was one of the early leaders, grabbing the lead after a pit stop on the 18th lap. He lasted there until Lap 30, when he stopped to get two fresh tires. It seemed the only thing that stood in Logano's way was a good pair of windshield wipers:
With the No. 22 car slipping back a bit, Harvick was able to gain a foothold. At this point, he was just getting greedy, having already won the pole for the Brickyard 400 earlier in the afternoon:
Harvick's pit crew had obviously figured out some sort of secret at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Throughout the entire weekend, he's had one of the fastest cars at the track. To see him out in front for a sustained period was no big surprise.
What also helped Harvick was the relatively small amount of cautions throughout the race. With such a big track, the cars are more spaced out, which cuts down on the amount of accidents and cautions.
The first yellow flag was as a result of debris on the track in the 16th lap. The second came nearly 40 laps later, when Jeffrey Earnhardt's engine gave out on him:
The problem for the drivers was that fluid leaked out of Earnhardt's engine as he circled around the track and headed for pit row. The trucks needed to clear the oil off before the race could get underway again. Pit road was especially slick.
For Earnhardt, his exit from the race was a comically unfortunate metaphor:
When the race got back underway and all the cars had exited the pits in Lap 61, Logano was sitting on the lead after taking only two tires on the left side. Chase Elliott took only two tires as well, but most of the field went with the full four.
Logano's strategy, though, was to make each pit stop as quick as possible. He and his pit crew executed a plan that would allow him to run the final 30-plus laps without having to make another trip down pit road:
It was a gamble that didn't pay off in the end. Logano was able to move up as high as fourth, but he simply ran out of laps, despite having one of the few cars with enough fuel to finish the race without any issue. If the race was 10 laps longer, Logano might have been able to grab the win.
Harvick was also undone by a poor pit strategy. He arguably had the best car on the day, but pitting in the 68th lap and then again six laps later pushed him to the middle of the pack, and he wasn't able to make up the ground in the final 26 laps.
Saturday just goes to show that in-race adjustments and executing the right game plan is just as important as the strength of the car. Dillon and his pit crew did everything right, and they were justly rewarded.
Dillon's been a fixture in the Top 10 on the Nationwide Series, but he's struggled to crack the Top Five. Getting that previously elusive first win may be the kick necessary for the 22-year-old to climb to the top of the points standings.
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