|PHOTO: Ty Dillon's Twitter feed @tydillon|
by Brock Beard
Ty Dillon scored the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Cup Series career in Monday’s Wurth 400 at the Dover Motor Speedway when his #77 NationsGuard Chevrolet was collected in a multi-car accident after 34 of 400 laps.
The finish, which occurred in Ty’s 213th series start, was his series-leading third of 2023, his first since the Circuit of the Americas, five races ago. In the Cup Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 42nd for the #77, the 647th from a crash, and the 838th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 56th for the #77, the 1,330th from a crash, and the 1,887th for Chevrolet.
Just last week at Talladega, Ty picked up his best finish of the 2023 season. He ran among the leaders, pacing the high line and climbing as high as 3rd before ultimately coming home 14th. It was his best-ever run for Spire Motorsports and his best since he ran 13th in last May’s Coca-Cola 600. The run came after a stretch of rough finishes, including a 32nd-place at Richmond, a 21st on the Bristol Dirt Race, and another 32nd in Martinsville.
After a treacherous practice session that saw multiple incidents in Turn 3, Ty ranked a strong 16th with a lap of 156.236mph (23.042 seconds). He was tied with 15th-place Aric Almirola, the tiebreaker determined based on points. When qualifying was cancelled by rain, Ty retained the 16th starting spot for what would be a Monday race – the postponement again due to weather.
With only the Chartered entries arriving in Dover, the 36th starting spot fell to Talladega last-place finisher Austin Dillon, Ty’s brother, in the #3 Get Bioethanol Chevrolet. Austin ran 31st-fastest in practice, only to spin on his third lap and back into the wall, sending him to a backup car. Austin incurred a redundant tail-end penalty before the start, leaving him on the outside of the final row for the green flag. “Nowhere to go but forward today,” said his team.
At the end of Lap 1, Austin remained in last, 0.135 second back of Brennan Poole. Poole was making his first Cup start since the November 2020 finale at Phoenix, now driving Rick Ware Racing’s #15 Millennium Jet Card Ford. On Lap 4, Bubba Wallace lost ground in the #23 McDonald’s Toyota and slipped to last on Lap 6, three-tenths back of Austin. But by Lap 8, Bubba pulled back ahead of Austin with a margin of 0.113. Two laps later, Bubba had also dispensed with Noah Gragson in the #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet, and Austin worked to his inside. As he did, Austin’s crew tried to suggest different lines he could try before the competition caution on Lap 21.
When the competition caution fell, the still last-place Austin reported his brake pedal had too much play in it, which the crew believed was due to air in the line. He also struggled with handling, seeking to offset a loose condition that kept him from going full throttle. The brake pressure improved under caution, so he came in for a normal pit stop. He dropped Poole to last on Lap 24, followed on Lap 28 by B.J. McLeod in the #78 Camden Medical Center Chevrolet. McLeod remained in last for the restart, but soon had to check-up for an incident down the backstretch.
|Ty Dillon's car awaits a tow after the early wreck.|
IMAGE: NASCAR Drive
Heading toward Turn 3, Noah Gragson had climbed to 31st when he suddenly broke loose, slapped the outside wall, then spun backward as he clipped the inside barrier. Poole barely avoided contact with a cut to the left, remarking under the ensuing caution, “The broadcast better give me a shout-out for missing that one.” Gragson took over last place on Lap 29, and soon went a lap down as he came down pit road. He made a second stop for the crew to look under the hood, repairing the damaged right-front toe link. The crew discovered the steering arm was also bent, and Gragson said something was wrong in the rear of the car as it hopped over the bumps. This led to a third stop, where the crew said the right-rear toe link was bent, but not broken. “We cannot fix it any better than we did with the adjustment we just made,” the crew told him.
On the following Lap 34 restart, Gragson remained on track between two and three laps down, but the caution fell soon after. Coming off Turn 4, 9th-place Daniel Suarez in the #99 Pitbull / Freeway Insurance Chevrolet bounced off the outside wall and spun to the inside. At the time, Ty Dillon was running near the back ahead of Kyle Busch, whose race-leading #8 Lenovo Chevrolet had just incurred a pit road speeding penalty by just eight-hundredths of a mile per hour. Busch bumped Ty into a spin, which sent him sliding backwards into the inside wall. McLeod, running behind Busch at the time, also checked-up and spun. While McLeod avoided serious damage and made it to pit road with Suarez, the rear of Ty’s car was pushed in bad enough that he couldn’t keep rolling. As Ty climbed from his car, taking last from Gragson on Lap 38, Suarez’ crew pushed the #99 behind the wall, the two one lap apart. Ty’s crew had the car brought to the hauler, choosing not to bring it to the garage stall. On Lap 45, both Ty and Suarez were declared out.
On Lap 43, two laps before the garage report, NASCAR declared both Kyle Busch and B.J. McLeod had met minimum speed after their involvement in the frontstretch wreck. This excluded Gragson, who had yet to clear his clock from the incident that came before. On Lap 46, NASCAR said Gragson had still yet to meet minimum speed and was now out of the race. Gragson’s Legacy Motor Club team waited for the report to be given a second time before calling him in, which was done on Lap 52. Poole took the 33rd spot after contact from Ross Chastain sent him spinning directly into the path of Kyle Larson’s #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet. While Poole’s day was done, Larson cleared his “Crash Clock” and spent more than 20 laps in the garage with repairs. Larson ultimately climbed no further, finishing 41 laps down to race winner Martin Truex, Jr. Similar to how Truex won the race the day after his brother Ryan Truex scored his first XFINITY Series victory, brothers Austin and Ty Dillon have now finished last in consecutive Cup races.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #77 in a Cup race at Dover since June 1, 1997, when Bobby Hillin, Jr.’s #77 Jasper Engines / Federal Mogul Ford fell out with crash damage after 234 laps of the Miller 500. Hillin was involved in an accident with Dick Trickle and Geoffrey Bodine. Bodine’s #7 QVC Ford ended up next-to-last, ending a streak of three consecutive last-place finishes for his team.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #77-Ty Dillon / 34 laps / crash
35) #99-Daniel Suarez / 35 laps / crash
34) #42-Noah Gragson / 43 laps / dvp
33) #15-Brennan Poole / 79 laps / crash
32) #5-Kyle Larson / 359 laps / running
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Spire Motorsports (3)
2nd) Live Fast Motorsports, Penske Racing (2)
3rd) Kaulig Racing, Legacy Motor Club, Richard Childress Racing, Rick Ware Racing (1)
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (8)
2nd) Ford (3)
2023 LASTCAR CUP SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
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