CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Dillon gambled and won.
Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night when he stayed out instead of pitting and made it to the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch.
Martin Truex Jr. was third after leading 233 of 400 laps.
It was Dillon’s first NASCAR Cup victory and returned the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet — owned by grandfather Richard Childress and driven to fame by Dale Earnhardt — to victory lane.
“I was trying to be patient,” Dillon said. “I thought I had saved enough [gas] early. When Jimmie [Johnson] ran out I went I went back into safe mode to save gas.”
Dillon celebrated by diving head first into the infield grass.
“That’s two of the last three years that we have lost on fuel mileage and that kind of stinks,” Truex said. “I drove my butt off but it wasn’t meant to be.”
Johnson was looking for a record-tying fifth Coca-Cola 600 win, but he ran out of gas while leading with two laps remaining.
The stage winners were All-Star race winner Kyle Busch in the first stage, Martin Truex Jr. in the second and Denny Hamlin in the third. Truex, who led 392 of 400 laps last year, led 108 of 200 laps as the race reached the midway point following a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay. It was his sixth stage victory of the season.
“We are trying to repeat what we did last year,” Truex said told Fox from his car during a break in the action.
A crash 20 laps into the race knocked out the cars of Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski.
Something flew out from underneath Jeffrey Earnhardt and hit the front of Elliott’s car, which quickly caught fire just as NASCAR was preparing going to a competition caution. Keselowski, who was racing behind Elliott, slammed into the back of Elliott’s car.
Both cars have been taken behind the wall.
Keselowski was considered one of the favorites to win the race. He has already won twice on the Cup Series circuit this year.
“There was just oil everywhere,” Keselowski said. “You just couldn’t stop or turn or anything.”
• Dale Earnhardt Jr. said he “leaned heavily” on teammate and seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Jimmie Johnson this week when setting up his No. 88 Chevy, after struggling last week in the All-Star race.
Earnhardt said he wants to win the Coca-Cola 600 more than any other race before retiring at the end of the year.