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posted February 18, 2018
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Austin Dillon Winner of 2018 Daytona 500
Furnished by NASCAR

Hodges News Service
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.--Austin Dillon drove the 3-car to victory in Sunday's Daytona 500, 20 years after Dale Earnhardt Sr. accomplished the feat. In 1998, Earnhardt won the 500 while Dillon sat and watched as a youngster.
   “I can't tell you what this really means to me,” said Dillon. “But I remember the day very well. It was Dale's first and only Daytona 500 victory and it was so special to him, his team, and all of us, especially my grandfather (Richard Childress). How awesome it is to win here.”
   The race went into overtime due to a big wreck on lap 198 of the 200-lap race. On the overtime restart, the top-5 leaders were Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, and Paul Menard.
   Almirola got a jump on the field and took the lead. Right after the cars took the white flag, signifying one last lap, Dillon had moved into third and was challenging Almirola for the lead. Almirola moved up on the track, trying to block Dillon, who tried to cut down. Dillon touched the rear bumper of Almirola, causing him to spin and hit the wall.
   “I really hate it for the 10-car, but I got a run on him and I couldn't back out.”
   Dillon could see the flagstand and sensed his first Cup Series win was about to happen. He held the No. 3's gas pedal to the floor and crossed the finish line 0.26-seconds ahead of Darrell Wallace Jr. and Denny Hamlin.  
   Dillon said he didn't  know if luck had anything to do with his win, but he found a penny lying face up just before the race.
   “You tell me,” he continued. “But I'll never get rid of that penny.”
   There is an old racing adage that says, “Sometimes luck is better than horsepower”. It appeared Dillon was the benefactor of both during the race.
   “We didn't win, but we had a great race,” said runner-up Darrell Wallace Jr. “This just goes to show that this Richard Petty team is for real.”
   Third-place finisher Denny Hamlin had to work his way back to the front after overshooting his pit during a routine pit stop and was penalized by NASCAR.
   “We're disappointed but there at the end I was committed to running a line that didn't work out for us,” said Hamlin. “I congratulate Austin. He drove a great race.”
   Joey Logano, Chris Buescher, Paul Menard, Ryan Blaney, Ryan Newman, Michael McDowell, and AJ Allmendinger rounded out the top-10 finishers.
   Ryan Blaney led 118 laps, the most of any driver.
   There were only 10 cars left on the track when the checkered flag was given on lap 207.
   The first big wreck came during lap 57 and involved 7 cars. Jimmie Johnson was one of them. He completely tore up his No. 48 after hitting the outside wall. It was the third car he had wrecked at Daytona over the past week.
   Danica Patrick, who was making her last trip as a racer to Daytona was caught up in a four car wreck on lap 101, that involved her, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.
   “The first half of the race, we had a pretty decent car,” she said. “We were running good. I thought we could move up. It has been a picture week. I'm grateful for all my fans. I have one more race left. And that's it.”
   Patrick was referring to this year's Indy 500, but so far, she does not have a ride or sponsor.
   Meanwhile Chase Elliott started the season off on a high note. He won his non-ponts Duel on Thursday and had worked his way to the front in Saturday's Xfinity race before being hit with a penalty and then became involved in a wreck. In Sunday's Daytona 500, he was running second, when he was bumped from behind by Brad Keselowski on lap 101 and was unable to finish the race. Elliott had the power, but unlike Dillon, luck didn't favor him. He wound up 33rd.
   Tyler Reddick won Saturday's Xfinity race that required five overtime tries. His margin of victory over second-place Elliott Sadler was listed by NASCAR as 0.000, which made it the closest finish in the series history.
  The “Big Wreck” came on Lap 121 after Aric Almirola bumped leader Kyle Larson, sending Larson's No. 42 and 16 other cars spinning and wrecking. Only 23 cars finished the race, which was extended from the planned 120 laps to 143 as the yellow and then red flag came out.
   Reddick appeared to have won the race in the third overtime, but a wreck unfolded behind him, and the caution flag came out just before he took the white flag. In the final overtime, his No. 9 Chevrolet got a strong shove from teammate Sadler, who pulled his No. 1 out of line to try for the win, but came up inches short.
   “What a way to start the season off,” said Reddick. “I'm totally freaked out the way the car drove and the way this win worked out. It's unbelievable.”
    The top seven finishers were all Xfinity Series regulars. They included Ryan Reed, Kaz Grala, Garrett Smithley, Spencer Gallagher, and Ryan Truex. Daniel Suarez's eight-place finish was the highest for any Cup driver. Ross Chastain and Brandon Jones rounded out the top-10.
   Johnny Sauter led 39 laps, the most of any driver on the way to victory in Friday's Truck Series race.
   Top-10 finishers; 1. Sauter, 2. Justin Haley, 3. Joe Nemechek, 4. Ben Rhodes, 5. Scott Lagasse Jr., 6. Grant Enfinger, 7. Spencer Davis, 8. Dalton Sargeant, 9.Jordan Anderson, 10. Justin Fontaine.
   For the first time in 71 years, Glen Wood missed the Speedweek activities at Daytona. The 92-year-old Hall of Famer had attended every one since 1947. He even drove in the inaugural 1959 Daytona 500 and won five Daytona 500s as team owner.
   Although healthy, Wood decided to not make his annual trip from Stuart, Virginia, because of his age and the potential to catch the deadly flu virus sweeping the country. So he watched on TV as Paul Menard drove the Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford.
   “With the flu and everything that's going on everywhere, we just didn't think the risk was there,” son Eddie Wood said. “He made up his own mind, we didn't ask him anything. We were just like, if he wants to go, he'll say so, and he just made the decision himself that he just didn't want to risk getting sick.”
Racing Joke: Kyle Busch and Jeff Gordon were driving around a small country town in Kentucky when Busch accidentally hit and killed a goat. Well, Jeff made him go up to the farm house and apologize.
   They drove up to the farm, Busch got out and knocked on the front door and was let in. He was in there for what seemed like hours.
   When Busch came out, Jeff was confused about why he had been in there so long. “Well, first the farmer shook my hand, then he offered me a beer, then his wife brought me some cookies, and his daughter showered me with kisses.” explained Busch.
   “What did you tell the farmer?” Gordon asked.
   Busch replied, “I told him I was driving around with Jeff Gordon and I'd just killed the old goat.” Weekend Racing: All three of NASCAR's major series will be at the 1.5 mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Saturday: Xfinity Series race 2 of 33; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Saturday: Truck Series race 2 of 23; Starting time: 4:30 pm ET; TV: FoxSports1.
Sunday: Cup Series race 2 of 36; Starting time: 2 pm ET; TV: Fox.
   Racing Trivia Question: Who is rookie William Byron driving for in 2018?
   Last Week's Question: Who is currently the oldest Cup Series driver? Answer. Jimmie Johnson at age 42 is the granddaddy of all Cup Series drivers.
   Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR writer and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: