CONCORD, N.C. (AP) – Austin Dillon passed an out-of-gas Jimmie Johnson two laps from the end in the Coca-Cola 600 for his first NASCAR Cup victory, returning the iconic No. 3 car to Victory Lane early Monday.
Dillon, the grandson of Hall of Fame car owner Richard Childress, was among several drivers who chose not to pit down the stretch. Johnson ran out of fuel on Lap 399, and Dillon was able to cruise to victory over Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., who led the most laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the third straight season.
“It hadn’t sunk in. I can’t believe it,” Dillon said. “We’re in the chase baby. It’s awesome.”
Dillon did his signature belly slide celebration in the damp grass at Charlotte, outlasting a rain delay of nearly 1 hour, 40 minutes and several established drivers to take his first checkered flag.
Dillon is the 10th driver to pick up his first Cup win in the Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race.
Dillon closed racing’s biggest day with the surprise victory, following Sebastian Vettel’s win in Formula One’s Monaco Grand Prix and Takura Sato’s victory in the Indy 500.
Truex took the lead for the final time with 67 laps left, sweeping past Busch to move out front. Truex pitted a final time with 33 laps left, confident he’d be able to hold on after everyone cycled through a last stop.
Matt Kenseth was fourth, and Denny Hamlin fifth.
Kurt Busch finished sixth, followed by rookie Erik Jones, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 10th in his final Coca-Cola 600 as a fulltime driver.
Harvick, who started on the pole, overcame wheel problems to finish in the top 10 for a seventh straight time in the Coca-Cola 600.
Johnson limped home to finish in 17th.