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Austin Dillon searches for race-day closure

May 28, 2013, Zack Albert, NASCAR.com

Austin Dillon searches for race-day closure
Early-season performance has produced good qualifying, but drop-off on race day

Related: Dover schedule | Standings | Charlotte results

CONCORD, N.C. -- Austin Dillon’s first pole position of the season marked a bright spot for the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. But by the end of the History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the next-generation driver was frustrated after another drop-off in the final stages.
 
Though no one was quite in the same class as race winner and series dominator Kyle Busch on Saturday afternoon, Dillon had at least hoped to lock down a top-five run in a field stocked with Sprint Cup stars. Instead, a late-race fade to a 14th-place finish dropped him one spot to seventh in the Nationwide standings.

"We’re struggling at the end of these races putting ourselves in position."

--Austin Dillon

“We got tight and couldn’t go forward. I don’t know,” said Dillon, in his second full season in the series. “We’re struggling at the end of these races putting ourselves in position. ... We’re trying everything we can to win these races, but it’s tough right now. We’ll just have to keep digging.”
 
Dillon entered the season as an early favorite for championship contention, based on his third-place finish in the standings in his rookie year, highlighted by a pair of wins in a sweep of Kentucky Speedway’s two Nationwide events. He also stood to benefit from continuity as his pairing with crew chief Danny Stockman Jr. remained intact.
 
There's still plenty of time to mount a title charge, but for whatever reason, Dillon hasn’t been able to finish ahead of where he started, leaving the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team winless thus far.
 
Qualifying easily has been Dillon’s strongest suit. He has qualified no worse than 11th in 10 races this season, and his average starting position of 4.8 leads the series. His average finish of 12.2, however, is seventh-best among Nationwide series regulars. As a result, he’s finished ahead of his starting spot just once all season.
 
Saturday, Dillon ran fifth through 150 of 200 laps, just ahead of the final series of pit stops. But on the exchange and the high-tension shuffling that ensued, Dillon dropped to as far back as 17th before gaining a handful of positions near the end.
 
“Mostly our last call or whatever we do at the end of the race has put ourselves in a bad position, and we don’t have the right adjustment for it, either,” Dillon said. “We just have to keep working on it.”

Dillon and his team will get their next opportunity at the 5-Hour Energy 200 at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Dover International Speedway.

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