It took 400 laps to declare a winner at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, and Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet SS wouldn’t have made it one more if he begged it.
Dillon was one of a handful of drivers that elected not to take a pit stop on Lap 368 of the Coca-Cola 600, choosing instead to push his car to the limit. And his midnight-hour gamble paid off, giving him fist first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Dillon was able to overcome a one hour, 40-minute weather delay, limited fuel down the stretch, as well as pressure from Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch to take the checkered flag.
After leading for much of the race, Truex Jr. reclaimed first place from Busch on a restart with 67 laps to go. But while Truex Jr. and Busch elected to pit, Johnson and Dillon stayed out on the course and gambled, knowing the only way they could win would be to risk running out of fuel.
And that’s exactly what Johnson did.
Johnson led for 30 laps, but the No. 48 car finally ran out of gas with two laps remaining.
Dillon sped past Johnson and was able to hold off Busch and Truex Jr., who finished second and third respectively.
It was the first win for the No. 3 in Cup since Dale Earnhardt Sr. won on Oct. 15, 2000, at Talladega Superspeedway.
Dillon’s grandfather, Richard Childress, couldn’t have been prouder.
Dillon and his crew had a little fun celebrating on the infield grass afterward.
Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 10th.
With the win, Dillon qualifies for the NASCAR playoffs, though he needs to remain inside the top 30 in the standings.
Thumbnail photo via Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY Sports Images