Austin Dillon held on strong for a fourth-place finish with an ill-handling NTS Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado during the closing laps of Friday nights SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway.
Dillon made his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start of 2014 in race three of the 22-race season. The weekend kicked off with two practice sessions on Thursday after being delayed nearly forty-five minutes due to weather.
When the green flag was displayed for first practice, Dillon didn't waste any time, he immediately got on track working with crew chief Jeff Hensley and spotter Billy O'dea. Dillon posted the 13th-quickest time after turning 24 laps. "We are focusing on race trim" said Hensley "that's what will put us in position to win."
A quick 30-minute break followed by final 60-minute practice session. Once Hensley had the chassis where Dillon felt he needed it, Billy O helped him work in the draft as well as qualifying trim during the second half of final practice. Dillon posted the seventh- quickest time of 30.920 seconds.
On-track activity resumed on Friday with "knockout style" qualifying at 3:40 p.m. Central Standard Time. This would be the NCWTS' first time with the new format of 25/10/5. Twenty-five minutes for round one where the top-24 move into the next round, followed by a five minute break, the second round is ten minutes with the top-12 moving into the third and final round. The third round is 5 minutes which sets the top-12 starting positions.
Dillon posted the sixth-quickest time in round one, followed by the second-quickest time in round two, and seventh-quickest time of 30.437 seconds in the final round. "Qualifying was fun. I think if we would have waited to go out in the final round we could have had a chance at the pole. The new format makes qualifying interesting because there is so much strategy involved."
When the green flag dropped on the SFP 250, Dillon made his charge towards the front knowing how crucial track position would be. The first caution flag flew on lap 1 with Dillon already moving into the sixth position. Through several more caution periods Dillon had made his move into the top-five and was running third at lap 20.
With the first round of pit stops at lap 34, Hensley brought Dillon down pit road for four tires, fuel, and a track bar adjustment to help free up the chassis. Dillon continued to race inside the top-5 through several more caution periods and found himself running fourth at halfway.
Dillon maintained his track position and found himself battling for the lead during the closing half of the race, leading for a total of 18 laps. As the long green flag runs continued, Dillon loosing forward drive got too tight and held onto a fourth place finish.
Next time out for Austin Dillon and the No. 20 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet will be Friday, May 16th at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NC Education Lottery 250.
Austin Dillon's Post-Race Thoughts:
"It was a fun race. We were just too tight, especially with the damage at the end. I was wheeling that thing. I am excited to get back into the NTS Motorsports Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway next week and go for that win."
Jeff Hensley's Post-Race Thoughts:
"I can not say enough about how hard everyone on this entire team worked. Austin did a terrific job driving, we worked some strategy and it played in our favor. The damage to the splitter wasn't helping us. We will regroup and go after it next week at Charlotte."