O’Reilly Auto Parts 500


By John Sturbin

North Carolina native and avid outdoorsman Austin Dillon is taking on the look of a naturalized Texan, courtesy of one hot lap Friday evening around Texas Motor Speedway.

Dillon will start Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 12th annual AAA Texas 500 on-pole after touring TMS’ high-banked/1.5-mile quadoval in 28.081-seconds/192.301 mph. Dillon, grandson of team-owner Richard Childress, bagged his third Coors Light Pole Award in 119 Cup Series starts, second of the season and first in eight races at TMS.

"Man, that's huge!” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Real Tree/Bad Boy Chevrolet SS. “It’s our second pole of the year, and I can't be happier for RCR and everybody back at the shop. A lot of hard work and effort goes on. We missed the Chase by just two feet. We want to prove that we can win a race by the end of this year. This is big for us.”

Dillon, who typically wears a black cowboy hat, appeared for his post-race presser wearing a new white Stetson. He also now is the proud owner of a Henry Repeating Rifle, the prize for earning P1 in the Lone Star State.

“For me being an outdoorsman, love shooting and it’s probably the most special pole award that I could get as a driver,” Dillon said. “It felt like a win. That was cool. They do a really good job here at Texas of making you feel good when you accomplish something.  That’s great.

“I don’t know about the lap.  I changed my line a little bit looking at dartfish and it worked out for me.  I actually thought I hurt myself because I changed my line, but it actually made me faster through (Turns) 1 and 2.  I was watching (Kevin) Harvick’s line and I changed it to kind of mimic his and we went faster.  Just glad our falloff was good and we get to start from the pole and have the No. 1 pit stall.”

Meanwhile, Joey Logano was bummed about missing pole by an eyelash for the second consecutive weekend. Logano, one of seven Chasers attempting to join Jimmie Johnson in the Championship 4 lineup, hot-lapped in 28.087-seconds/192.260 mph to earn the outside of Row 1.

“That is really frustrating,” said Logano, driver of the No. 22 AAA Ford Fusion fielded by Penske Racing. “Last week we missed it by eight-thousandths (of a second) and this week by six-thousandths. Second stings the most. That’s OK. Our team is tough and we showed speed in qualifying the last couple weeks. I think this AAA Fusion has a lot of speed in race trim, too.

“I’m excited. It’s a fun track to race and is really racey as well. We’re starting toward the front and this is a 500-mile race so I’m looking forward to it.”

Chaser Harvick _ 0-for-27 in Cup races at TMS _ will start third after a lap at 192.178 mph in his No. 4 Busch Beer Chevy SS fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I think the car was better than the decisions that the driver made,” Harvick said. “I went into Turn 1 and I didn’t get it all the way to the bottom and pointed in the right direction before the bump.  I got greedy and tried to leave the throttle down and then it hit the bump and then it got further out of the groove, so I had to wait longer.  I got through (Turns) 3 and 4 OK and to the green (flag) fine, but everybody on the Busch Beer Chevy did a good job.”

The remainder of the Chase candidates were led by Matt Kenseth, who will start seventh in the No. 20 DeWalt Flexvolt Toyota Camry after a lap at 191.381 mph.  Carl Edwards, Kenseth’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, will start ninth after lapping at 190.988 mph in the No. 19 Sport Clips Toyota. His Row 5 starting partner is Kurt Busch, who lapped at 190.543 mph in the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevy SS.

JGR’s Denny Hamlin will start 17th after his lap at 190.826 mph in the No. 11 FedEx Office Camry. Johnson _ who clinched the first berth in the Championship 4 via his victory at Martinsville Speedway last Sunday _ rolls off 19th after lapping at 189.520 mph in the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy SS. A six-time Cup champion for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson and three contenders will race for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20.

Meanwhile, reigning Cup champion and Chaser Kyle Busch saw a bad day get worse during qualifying, when a water leak sidelined his backup No. 18 M&M’s Toyota during Round 2 of knockout qualifying. Busch, winner of the Duck Commander 500 here on April 9, was forced into his backup ride after contacting the Turn 3 wall on his opening lap of practice Friday morning. The water leak added to the team’s to-do list before Saturday’s final practice at 12:30 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday’s 501-mile/334-lap event. Busch will start 24th.

“I think it’s a byproduct of pounding the fence before we even completed a lap in practice,” said Adam Stevens, Busch’s crew chief. “In our hurry to change the motor and all the drive train afterwards, apparently we didn’t get the lower radiator hose completely clamped on the water neck out of the block and proceeded to dump all the water out of it on pit road after our first run.  We’re going to start 24th and get after them from there.”

About the author

The Texas Motor Speedway Media Relations Department is located on the 6th floor of The Speedway Club outside of Turn 1 of the speedway. 

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