|Mike Stefanik was quick to grab the trophy after narrowly winning the Whelen Modified Tour Town Fair Tire 100. (barry chin/globe staff)|
Dillon earns a dash more cash
LOUDON, N.H. — To protect himself from the sun, Austin Dillon entered his postrace interview wearing an oversized straw hat. He left with an even bigger check.
Dillon finished third in Saturday’s F.W. Webb 200, taking home $100,000 as part of the Nationwide Series “Dash 4 Cash” program. Driving the No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon held off Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who finished fifth and was one of the four drivers eligible for the prize at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, alongside Elliot Sadler (seventh) and Michael Annett (11th).
“Going for $100,000, I was getting frustrated, but I had to calm myself down and mentally take control of what was going on,” Dillon said. “For a while, when Stenhouse was in front of me, I had to slow down because I was working my tires too much. We kept staying with it, not overdriving the corner, and that’s where I saw a bunch of those guys I was able to pass. They’d enter too hard and slide, slide, and I could back my corner and go under them.”
Two weeks ago, Dillon’s victory at Kentucky Speedway was marred when he was docked 6 points after his right rear tire failed inspection.
The slide continued last weekend at Daytona, Fla., where crew chief Danny Stockman and car chief Robert Strmiska were each suspended two weeks after Dillon’s car had an illegal open vent hose, which came with another 6-point reduction.
“We gained some [points] today on it, and gained on everybody,” Dillon said. “That was good. It really played out for us points-wise. Heck of a battle here. I think it really showed how deep we can dig, setting up a great racecar, having it ready for the race.”
Stenhouse, who had fought strep throat throughout the week, collapsed from dehydration upon exiting his car on pit row. He quickly regained consciousness before being treated in the infield care center.
“When I’m in there, I’m driving as hard as I can every lap,” Stenhouse said. “I got sick after the race in Daytona on Friday night and kind of let it go throughout the weekend and was hoping it would get better, but it never did. It’s probably my fault that we ended up like this.”
By finishing in the top four among eligible drivers Saturday, Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Stenhouse, and Sadler will compete for another $100,000 next week in the STP 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.
As for his latest payday, Dillon needed some time to determine a spending plan.
“I said I was going to get a pool,” he said. “I wish I had a pool right now. I’m going to see what goes on. Maybe I’ll be smart like my grandpa and invest it somehow.”
Mike Stefanik edged out pole-sitter Ron Silk at the stripe by 0.003 seconds to win the Town Fair Tire 100 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“I come out of [turn] 4, and I’m like, oh boy, this is going to be tight,” Stefanik said. “I actually physically sat up in the seat as much as I could, peered over the front of my car, rolled over to my right to see which bumper was ahead.
“I just wanted to win after such a hard-fought battle. This feeling I have today never gets old. I’m 54 years old. I still feel like I’m 21.”
Silk got clipped in his left rear by Rowan Pennink, who finished sixth. That slight wiggle gave Stefanik, born in Wilbraham, Mass., his 72d career win, second in his past three starts at NHMS, and record eighth overall in Loudon.
“That might have been different, we might have won the race if it wasn’t for that, but that’s what happened,” Silk said of the bump. “I think that’s probably worth three-thousandths at least.”
In the final Sprint Cup practice Saturday morning, Denny Hamlin clocked the fastest one-lap time at 131.383 miles per hour. He will start third in Sunday’s race. Kyle Busch, the pole-sitter, posted the second-fastest practice lap at 131.243 m.p.h. . . . For a sport relatively new to the NASCAR scene, RallyCross has attracted some of the world’s top X Games stars, including Travis Pastrana, Bucky Lasek, and Dave Mirra. Pastrana won Saturday night’s inaugural event at NHMS, finishing in 3 minutes, 40.274 seconds, beating Samuel Hubinette by 1.431 seconds. Brian Deegan, Tanner Foust, and Ken Block rounded out the top 5.