PrintPrint

Dillon wins Nationwide after misfortune by Stenhouse, Sadler

Associated Press

9/22/2012 7:03:20 PM

SPARTA, Ky. -- As Austin Dillon proved again at Kentucky Speedway, being good creates its own fate.

Although misfortune by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Elliott Sadler factored in the outcome of the Nationwide Series race Saturday, Dillon's ability to take advantage resulted in victory. Starting on the pole and always in contention, the rookie positioned himself to pass Sadler when his teammate's Chevy fell off the pace with steering issues with 50 laps left.

Nothing lucky about that.

"It wasn't a gift by (any) means," Dillon said after leading the final 50 laps to complete a season sweep at the 1.5-mile oval. "We had a great car in practice, we adjusted on it (Friday) and today and it got really good. We're in victory lane and proud to represent the speedway with the sweep."

Dillon, who dominated the June race by leading 192 of 200 laps, led four times for 65 laps this time around in the iconic No. 3 Chevy owned by grandfather Richard Childress.

He won comfortably over Sam Hornish Jr., Brendan Gaughan, Drew Herring and Sadler, who seemed headed for his fifth win after leading 93 laps.

Sadler's consolation was reclaiming the points lead from Stenhouse, whose pit-road collision with Eric McClure on lap 33 helped create an opportunity that Dillon ultimately seized. But he lamented what might have been given his own wide-open chance.

"It seems like whoever gets the points lead messes up," said Sadler, who leads Stenhouse by four points and Dillon by 19 with six races remaining. "I messed up at Richmond and Ricky had some bad luck today, and I think it's going to go back and forth from now all the way to Homestead.

"At the time we were leading the race and running fast, I felt like I could make a big gain if we won the race. But we're up four points and will go on to Dover."

Stenhouse's pit-road accident initially benefited Sadler. Leading the race as he pitted during a competition caution, the defending series champion collided with McClure exiting his stall.

The prolonged pit stop for repairs opened the door for Sadler to take the race and series lead, and he went on to lead 93 of the next 98 laps with Dillon following before the handling issue created opportunity for his Richard Childress Racing teammate.

After grabbing the points lead from Sadler last week with a win at Chicago, Stenhouse started off looking as if he would extend his roll. He started second but moved past Dillon on the first lap, and his No. 6 Ford seemed to strongest early on.

Things unraveled after a competition yellow at lap 30. Stenhouse quickly backed up his car to make repairs, but the damage was done.

He restarted 27 spots behind Dillon in 28th and subsequent pit stops eventually left him three laps behind Sadler, who took the lead from Hornish on lap 47.

Stenhouse finished 17th.

"Our first mistake was on pit road," he said. "It was one thing after another. We rebounded to finish 17th, but we made way too many mistakes."

With 80 laps left, Sadler held a 1-second lead over Dillon, with Kurt Busch 4 seconds back.

At that point Busch was making a strong comeback after starting from the rear for the driver change. The 2004 Sprint Cup series champion flew in from Loudon, N.H., just before the race to drive the No. 54 Toyota that Crafton qualified 14th.

Busch quickly went to work in the car owned by his brother Kyle, standing 16th after 23 laps and fourth after 50. But the car started smoking on lap 125. Within seven laps, Busch was in the garage.