BROOKLYN, Mich. – Austin Dillon was at the front of the field at the right time during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250 at Michigan Int’l Speedway.
Dillon was declared the winner of the LTi Printing 250 after 91 laps when rain moved in over the track, stopping the race 34 laps short of the scheduled distance.
“I’m glad we could put the 3 back in victory lane in the Xfinity Series,” said Dillon, who gave RCR it’s first Xfinity Series victory since 2016. “It’s been a bit of a slump.”
Rain was a problem all day at the two-mile asphalt oval, with a storm washing out Xfinity Series qualifying earlier in the day. The race was scheduled to start at roughly 1:45 p.m. EST, but it continued to rain and officials were forced to delay the start until just after 5 p.m. EST when there was a break in the storm system.
With more rain in the forecast for later in the afternoon, the sense throughout the field that they were racing to halfway and the incoming rain. With that in mind, Dillon and his Richard Childress Racing team made a brilliant strategy call that put him in position to win the race.
With only a handful of laps left in the second stage the caution flag waved for a crash involving Matt Mills in turn two. Many of the leaders opted to hit pit road during the caution, but Dillon was one of several drivers who opted to stay out in the hopes that rain would hit the track before they ran out of fuel.
That put Dillon third behind Elliott Sadler and Matt Tifft, with Ryan Truex and Kaz Grala next in line. Sadler would win the stage, but with rain getting closer by the minute most of the leaders opted not to pit, with the exception of Tifft from fourth and Ross Chastain from sixth.
The race resumed with 66 laps left and Sadler held on to the lead briefly, but Grala made his presence known with a pass on the inside entering turn three to take the lead with 59 laps left. The caution flag would wave moments later when the damaged machine of Christopher Bell spun out of turn four.
Racing resumed again with 55 laps left and Grala did everything he could to hold the lead, fighting off an advance from Daniel Hemric on the restart lap. That was when Dillon made his move, getting to the bumper of of Grala’s Ford to get him loose in turn one. Grala slid up the track and Dillon drove by him to take the lead with 54 laps left.
One lap later the caution waved again, this time for a spin by Austin Cindric through the infield grass. Dillon had the lead ahead of Ryan Reed, Hemric, Cole Custer and Grala for the restart, which came on lap 76.
Reed was able to get a big run during the restart and managed to pull clear of Dillon out of turn two. He was still the leader at the start/finish line, but Dillon got a big push from his teammate Hemric and was able to get back to the point by the time the field stormed through turn one.
Dillon continued to lead until another caution flag with 46 laps left for a big crash in turn two involving Brandon Hightower, Caesar Bacarella and Josh Bilicki that saw Hightower’s car briefly catch fire.
After a lengthy cleanup the field prepared to go back racing with 38 laps left, but NASCAR waved off the restart because of light rain. After another lap under caution officials gave the green light and the race resumed with Dillon and Hemric battling side-by-side, both likely knowing the race was about to be over with rain beginning to fall.
Dillon inched ahead coming out of turn two down the backstretch, at which point NASCAR called for the caution because the rain had intensified around the track. After a few laps circulating under caution series officials made the decision to declare the race official, giving the victory to Dillon and Richard Childress Racing.
“I was wanting that rain to come. We played a good strategy. Nick Harrison (crew chief) gets the credit for that. I just held on to the wheel,” Dillon said.
Hemric finished second to give Richard Childress Racing a one-two finish. It was also the best Xfinity Series finish of his career.
“It definitely stings to be that close and to have it end that way,” said Hemric. “Everybody on the South Point Casino & Hotel Chevrolet did an incredible job, not only today but they’ve been doing it all year, trying to put me in position. They did and I just didn’t capitalize there on that restart like I needed to.”
Custer finished third ahead of Reed and Paul Menard. Kyle Busch won the first stage and led the most laps, but the decision to pit near the end of the second stage left him stuck near the back of the field and he was unable to recover.
Stage two winner and points leader Sadler, who had finished inside the top-10 in every race so far this year, bounced off the wall late in the race and finished 30th.
Saturday’s race was the latest to feature the experimental aero package that included restrictor plates. The package debuted last year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and is designed to keep cars closer together and increase passing opportunities.
For complete results, advance to the next page.