By Reid Spencer
BROOKLYN, Michigan – Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, but Austin Dillon made the save of the day.
The save that allowed Dillon to post his first top-five finish since winning the Daytona 500 in February wasn’t a sudden, spur-of-the moment thing. In fact, it took more than a lap to accomplish, as Dillon nursed his car around the 2.0-mile track with enough speed to finish fourth, keeping Ryan Blaney behind him.
Dillon was running second to Harvick and approaching the white flag when he felt a vibration in the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He slowed, and Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch sped past.
But thanks to a two-tire call on his final pit stop, Dillon was far enough ahead of Blaney that he could hold the fourth position at the finish.
The driver’s elation at the newfound speed in his car far overshadowed the disappointment of losing two positions.
“Man, we had a fast car,” Dillon said. “I got to battle with Harvick there, and that was awesome. I’m so proud of the guys for having a car capable of doing that. Yeah, that (vibration) really stunk. We were kind of in position that if something happened to the No. 4, we could win the race.
“With two (laps) to go, I went into (Turn) 3, and I kind of missed the corner. When I came down the straightaway, it was just shaking like either the tire was unraveling or it was a loose wheel. I didn’t want to lose this great finish we had in front of us, but we brought it home with a top-five at least.”
RCR gave Dillon a new chassis for the Michigan race, and it showed.
“It’s huge,” Dillon said. “It’s great momentum for the team. The pit crew was amazing all day. It just feels good. We have this capability when we put our best days together, and we’ve got to keep doing it and work hard.
“And we’ve got a great opportunity this year with being in the playoffs.”
RUN-IN WITH DEBRIS SPOILS SOLID RUN BY TY DILLON
If Austin Dillon found plenty of satisfaction in his fourth-place run, brother Ty Dillon took nothing but consternation away from the race.
Ty Dillon was fighting for a spot in the top 20 when he ran over a large piece of debris on the backstretch and went rocketing into the outside wall. Consensus was that the debris was actually a backup battery that had fallen out of another competitor’s car.
“I saw it, but I had nowhere to go,” Dillon said. “We were two-wide there. You can’t really turn your car out of the way quick enough to miss it. I was just hoping it was a glove or something that wouldn’t collect it.”
Dillon knew from the impact that the object was no glove. It punched a hole in the nose of his car.
“As soon as it hit, it was like hitting a wall, and I had no control of the car,” Dillon said. “I just drove it straight at 218 mph into the wall, no brakes, no nothing.
“So, hopefully, NASCAR finds whose piece that was, because that shouldn’t happen in our sport. There shouldn’t be batteries laying on our tracks. Not to tear down, I know a lot of these people have to do a lot to make these cars come to the race track, but things like that can’t happen, because it’s too dangerous at a place like this.”
AFTER THIRD-PLACE FINISH, KYLE BUSCH LOOKS TO BRISTOL
Kyle Busch didn’t have the speed to run with Harvick on Sunday.
The good news is that the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway is only six days away. Busch is a seven-time winner at Thunder Valley, and Bristol as an ideal track for him to try to even the score with Harvick.
After Sunday’s race, Harvick has seven victories in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season to Busch’s six.
“Certainly Harvick has been fast there, too,” Busch said. “I think he won there a couple years ago. But, obviously, we’re kind of on a hot streak with Bristol. We love going there. I would like to think that we can go there, be fast and be able to respond — absolutely.
“So we’ll see what we can do getting there, and hopefully having a fast race car and doing what we normally do there, just try to stay out of trouble. It’s a tough place to stay out of trouble.”
— NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.