DAYTONA BEACH, Fla – Austin Dillon led just one lap in February’s Daytona 500. But, that lap was the one that counted the most. The 207th and final one at that. Dillon, won the 60th annual Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 and now returns to the Daytona International Speedway this weekend hoping to become just the sixth driver in series history to win both of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races on the 2.5-mile track in the same season.
The last to do so was Jimmie Johnson in 2013.
But, Johnson was the first driver to accomplish that feat in 31 years. Bobbie Allison was the last to win the ‘500 and ‘400 before Johnson, doing so in 1982. Before Allison, it was Cale and LeeRoy Yarborough doing it in back-to-back years in 1968 and again in 1969 respectively. Fireball Roberts was the first driver to win both races doing it in 1962. So, from 1962 through 1969, it happened three times in an eight year span. But, in the 47 years since, it’s only happened twice.
Dillon is hoping to make it twice in the last five years in Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7 p.m. ET/NBC/MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Chevrolet is also hoping to make it happen too. See, since Dillon’s Daytona 500 triumph, Chevy hasn’t won a race since. They have just two total stage wins, albeit one was taken away due to Kyle Larson’s car at Kansas being penalized and have led only 572 laps. That’s just 12-percent of the laps run all year. In February, they only led 20 laps. At Talladega this year, they led just 50 circuits.
Heading into this weekend’s race, they’ve led 48 laps over the last five races. Eight of the first 18 races have seen them lead 10 laps or fewer. Despite that, they have the Daytona 500 championship trophy. Now, with a level playing field, they want another win.
If Dillon can reach victory lane, we’d call him Big Race Dillon. He won the Coca-Cola 600 last May and the Daytona 500 this February. Can his first three wins be in three of the bigger races in the series today?
He needs a good finish anyways. Since his Daytona win, Dillon has had just one top 10 finish and that was a 10th place run in Fontana. Other than that, he’s been a 10th to 20th place car most everywhere else. In fact, out of 18 races run in 2018, Dillon has 11 top 20 finishes.
Can he get a 12th on Saturday night and two of which wins? It would be historical to say the least.