Race Weekend Central

20 Years After Dale Earnhardt Sr., Austin Dillon Wins 2018 Daytona 500

“20 years of effort. 20 years of trying.” Indeed, 20 years after Dale Earnhardt’s Daytona 500 win, owner Richard Childress and grandson Austin Dillon made history once again in the No. 3 car.

Dillon surged into the lead on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway, turning Aric Almirola on the backstretch to surge into the front. From there, he edged out Darrell Wallace Jr. by 0.260 seconds to earn the victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season opener.

The win came 17 years to the day after Earnhardt passed away in a tragic last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Since then, Childress has won the 500 once, with Kevin Harvick in 2007, but not running the iconic No. 3.

“To come back 20 years after Dale’s great victory here. 20 years later, win with my grandson in the No. 3 car is a storybook tale,” Childress said. “He’s smiling down on me.”

Dillon overcame several obstacles in this one. Among them was losing the lead draft in the third stage; in the end, he only led a single lap. It’s the second straight year the 500 winner has only led on the white flag lap.

I don’t know what it is about storylines and Daytona, but this place just creates history,” Dillon said. “I’m just proud to be a part of history tonight.”

Wallace wrecked across the checkered flag with Denny Hamlin, who wound up third. Joey Logano and Chris Buescher rounded out the top-five finishers in a wild 500-mile event.

For Wallace, it was the best finish for an African-American driver in the history of the Great American Race. That led to an emotional embrace with Wallace’s mom after the event.

“It’s Daytona,” he exhaled after a few tears at the podium. “Jesus Christ.”

Only 11 drivers wound up on the lead lap after several wrecks whittled down the competition.  A whopping 15 drivers (38 percent of the field) failed to finish with many of the rest looking like they ran a short track, not a superspeedway.

With Chase Elliott, Danica Patrick, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, and Brad Keselowski eliminated by the end of stage two it opened the door for others to break through. Ryan Blaney took advantage of that misfortune, dominating much of the race’s second half. His 118 laps led was a race high in a strong debut running the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

But a race that appeared set up for Blaney changed after a late caution for William Byron’s spin. Bunching up the field gave a chance for others to challenge him. Suddenly, a bold move by Hamlin on the restart left Blaney a sitting duck in the middle.

From that point, he could never claw back up front. An ill-timed push of defending 500 winner Kurt Busch on lap 199 caused the final caution of the race.

“I thought we could control pretty well from the lead,” he said. “It just didn’t really play out that way.”


That bunched up the field one final time and gave Dillon a chance to break through. He surged ahead to second entering the white flag lap and then engaged in a back-and-forth with Almirola. Back and forth, the cars zigzagged down the backstretch until contact put the No. 10 in the wall.

Many fans were irate after the event, claiming Dillon bumped Almirola as a cheap shot. But the driver himself didn’t blame anyone for the wreck; instead, he claimed partial responsibility.

It’s a move Dillon was comfortable with after the fact.

“I guess I could have lifted and given it to him,” he said. “Just given him a Daytona 500 ring.”


About the author

Tom Bowles
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The author of Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 40+ staff members as its majority owner and Editor-in-Chief. Based outside Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild. He most recently consulted with SRX Racing, helping manage cutting-edge technology and graphics that appeared on their CBS broadcasts during 2021 and 2022.

You can find Tom’s writing here, at CBSSports.com and Athlonsports.com, where he’s been an editorial consultant for the annual racing magazine for 15 years.

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So, Driving through another car is ok, if it’s for a Daytona 500 Ring? That wasn’t a bump and run or even an attempted pass. Austin Dillon made a classless move and soured a great Daytona 500.


UGH, and if Dillon pays attention, NOBODY LIKES HIM. Crap like this…shameful. Feel bad for Aric.


The Dillon Brothers were “Given” their rides thanks to a rich Grandfather. I remember Harvick calling them “Spoiled Rich Kids” after a truck incident in Martinsville a few years ago. Grand Daddy bought the #13 ride for Ty which booted Mears out of that seat. But Austin Dillon ‘s statement is just what you would expect from a person with a attitude of entitlement.


“Surged into the lead”? Really? Bumped the leader out of the way is what you surely meant to say.

BTW: I have to laugh – the many people who crucified Danica for only being in a ride because of a rich sponsor buying a ride dont say a word about the Dillon’s and the like.


Correct, Another cheap shot for the #3 car, (it’s tradition!).


I don’t get the hate for Dillon. IT’S THE LAST LAP OF THE DAYTONA 500! Anyone of us in the same position would have done the same. Dillon had a big run, Eric blocked, typical plate racing. I saw what we all want, two drivers going all out for the biggest prize in the sport.


Upstate9fan…..yep me too.


No. Watch the finishes over the last 30 years and tell me one time that the car running second drove through the leader to pick up the win. There have been taps, side drafts gone awry, bad blocks, etc. But, there has not been a finish where the leader got dumped because it was the Daytona 500. Had the tables been turned, there would have been uproar.

Johnny Cuda

I am not a fan of blocking. But I think you get what you deserve for it. It was the cause of the Elliot-Keselowski wreck. And just ask Carl Edwards about his block on Brad K. several years back.
I would have loved to see Almirola win the Daytona 500, but I don’t think Austin Dillon did anything different than anybody else had done all day long.

Bill B

Once again the winner proves the crapshoot random nature of restrictor plate races.
Well, he’s got his one win for the year.


winner tends to be whomever survives the multiple last lap wrecks at plate tracks. what a mess that was and also on saturday. all that torn up equipment. all that money.


So, Dillon sometimes wears a cowboy hat like the King, now he tells a story of a lucky penny like The Intimidator. Guess there isn’t enough of him to just be Austin?

Bill B

Yeah, I about gagged on that one too.
What he didn’t tell you was that every year he’s ran the 500 he’s taped a penny on the dashboard, just so he could draw a comparison to Earnhardt if he happened to win.


I agree with Russ. “Surged into the lead”? Really? Bumped the leader out of the way is what you surely meant to say.
Total cheap shot, Eric was not making a wild blocking move. He was driving in front going for the win. Dillon made no attempt to pass- no wait- he did pass him, right after he cheap-shotted him. Despicable.


For a sport that is sinking into the morass not exactly the look they want. At one time that sort of thing was cheered, now the stands and the ratings show how it is perceived.

John Matthew

Dillon brags about trashing Almirola to win: no class at all. It was a dump job, pure and simple, so I hope he gets his soon enough.

Tom B

In other major racing, that move by ACE would be penalized.
Same results for SHR#10, a crash out. But its different this time because Danica was not driving. Did any drivers express concern over Amirola’s condition after the crash, No. Let’s criticize Danica. Someone spins right it front of Danica again, lets jump on her for wrecking. What a bunch of haters.

Bill B

Funny, the only person that mentioned Danica below other than you was Russ, and there was no hate in his comment for Danica.
Where’s the hate? ….you promised me hate. Now I read all those comments for nothing. What a rip off.


Frontstretch removed the negative Danica comments. They were there earlier.

Tom B

The hate for Danica has been written about her for several years in these replies. I guess if it didn’t happen yesterday it never happened.

Bobby DK

Run over the defender in football to get into the end zone. Run over the catcher in baseball to get to home plate. Anybody gets in your way of a monster dunk, run them over. I’m thinking Brian got what he wants.

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