While Chase Briscoe powered his way off the final restart to run away with the Ruoff Mortgage 500, three of his NASCAR Cup Series peers endured frustrating finishes.
- Austin Dillon didn’t see the end coming.
- Kyle Larson endured a lost weekend.
- Martin Truex Jr.’s bid for back-to-back winter titles at Phoenix Raceway started slowly and climaxed swiftly.
Here’s how the disappointed trio described their performances:
Austin Dillon, 21st-place finish
Running in seventh place when Briscoe crossed the finish line for his first Cup victory, Dillon didn’t expect what came next. He eyed his own top-seven finish, possibly making a last-turn maneuver to improve his track position.
He didn’t have a chance.
Moments before attempting a move, an out-of-control Daniel Suarez’s No. 99 Chevrolet clipped Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet, delivering the helpless Dillon into the retaining wall. It’ll be interesting to hear what Suarez says about the accident on Fox Sports’ Race Hub on March 15.
Dillon did wait to rehash his disappointment.
“We had a top-five run going today, so I hate that our day ended the way it did,” Dillon said, reported by NBC Sports. “… We were as fast as anyone in clean air. Our pit crew fired off great stops all day. On the last restart, we were running sixth when the field went three-wide, and someone tagged our (left)-rear. We got collected, and it ended our day.
“It’s unfortunate to get tangled in someone else’s mess, but we’ll regroup and head to Atlanta Motor Speedway with even more fire underneath us.”
Kyle Larson, 34th
Hendrick Motorsports’ attempt at sweeping the three-race West Coast swing didn’t develop.
- Chase Elliott challenged the lead for a while but faded to 11th place.
- William Byron utilized the apron early and earned a Stage 1 win but couldn’t maintain the momentum, falling to 18th.
- Alex Bowman failed to generate a run at the lead pack, and the “Hack” could not pull off back-to-back wins.
Larson had the longest weekend, however.
His day started with news that his No. 5 Chevrolet would not start P7, but at the rear of the field after NASCAR inspectors deemed the team executed an unapproved steering adjustment.
Utilizing pit strategy, Larson led for two laps but otherwise meandered through much of Stage 1. The defending champion finished second and first in the past two events but couldn’t mount a serious charge before engine problems ended his day after 239 laps.
“I know they’ll address the issue,” Larson said. “We’ll come back strong and reliable.”
Martin Truex Jr., 35th
From first, to second, to second-to-last.
That’s the three-race trend Truex has experienced at Phoenix.
Last winter, Truex earned an early playoff ticket and barely missed out on his second series title during the Championship 4 race last November.
On March 13, Truex was never competitive.
In a race that featured just two single-car accidents, Truex’s exit started when he lost control of his machine and drove straight into the retaining wall on Lap 219. As soon as he exited the car, Truex walked straight to the medical trailer for a mandatory checkup. He knew his day was done.
Toyota remains winless this season.
“We had been getting really loose all day on the longer runs,” Truex said. “Coming off of turn two there, I’m kind of neutral free, and then all of a sudden it shot straight into the fence.”