The last laps of the Daytona 500 are always wild, as there is usually an onslaught of drivers doing what ever they need to do to take home that legendary checkered flag. And on Feb. 18, NASCAR racer Austin Dillon was right there with the rest of them, doing everything he could to go over that finish line first.
And he did just that. But heck, he didn’t even know he did.
“Did we win?” Austin asked over the radio that was pulled together into a dynamic YouTube video for FOX Sports. “Did we just freaking win?!”
“Hell of a job, buddy,” team owner Richard Childress said to his driver. “Hell of a job! That’s what I mean – you won it!”
Hard to believe, isn’t it?
During a press conference after the race and reported on by For The Win, Austin talked about the moment when he wasn’t quite sure if he had come home with the win. “[Spotter Andy] Houston didn’t say that it was the checkered flag,” Austin remembered. “He never does. He’s always a lap or two off. We usually don’t count really well together. I ask him about every race how many laps to go, and he gives me the wrong number, and it’s kind of a running joke against our team about our math skills.”
Austin did, in fact, come home with the win, and he still seems to be getting used to the fact that he is a Daytona 500 champion for now and forevermore. And so is Richard.
“I don’t know if people really understood how much pressure Austin felt when he took over that car in the Cup Series,” Richard said after the race to ESPN. “I told the Dale Earnhardt fans to be patient and they’d get their payoff. I hope that’s how they see this tonight. This is for them. Dale would put his arm around Austin, put him in that iron grip, and he would congratulate him.”
Richard continued. “He would be happy for him. He would thank him for getting his car back into Victory Lane at Daytona. He would thank him for getting all of us back into Victory Lane. Dale would thank him for tonight.”