Austin Dillon overcame the flu and a flat tire for his first top-10 finish of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season on Sunday.
Dillon finished 10th in the Auto Club 400 after starting from the pole. But before the race began, there was cause for concern in the Richard Childress Racing garage when Dillon fell ill and headed to the infield care center.
Xfinity Series regular Cole Custer quickly was fitted for the seat of the No. 3 on the grid and was ready to serve as Dillon’s relief driver if needed.
But the North Carolinan was in the car at the start, and said he was optimistic once behind the wheel. Although others swept past hin at the start and he failed to lead a lap, Dillon well-placed before a tire went down with just a few laps remaining in Stage 1, damaging the right rear of his Chevrolet.
“We had a really fast Dow Chevrolet this weekend and we’ve shown speed all year,” Dillon said. “We earned the pole award and ran well within the top-five until the end of Stage 1. I could feel the right-rear tire going down and brushed the outside wall. The No. 3 team did a great job keeping me on the lead lap during multiple pit stops for repairs, [but] it was an uphill battle to reclaim track position.
“Through hard work, we were able to finish 10th,” Dillon continued. “I’m so proud of this team.”
The result is the second consecutive 10th-place finish for Dillon in Fontana, which is a career-best.