INDIANAPOLIS – It was just a regular Nationwide Series race, but the location is what made it special: the most legendary venue in motorsports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In the end, Ty Dillon – grandson of Sprint Cup owner Richard Childress – earned without question the greatest victory of his young career, capturing the Lilly Diabetes 250.
And kicked the butt of several Sprint Cup regulars in the process, holding off a phalanx that included runner-up Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth (third), Joey Logano (fourth) and Kevin Harvick (fifth).
Not only that, Dillon led a steamroller of three RCR drivers in the top-7, with teammates Paul Menard (another Cup regular) finishing sixth and Brian Scott seventh.
And to top it all off, he won an extra $100,000 in the Nationwide Dash-4-Cash promotion, with the finals next Saturday night at Iowa Speedway.
“We got out front and she unleashed,” Dillon told ESPN of his race car. “I’m so happy. … Boy, I just about had it out there.”
Dillon could be seen wiping tears of happiness from his eyes after taking the win, and admitted he was praying as the final laps clicked off.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but the emotions are incredible,” Dillon said when he came into the IMS media center afterward. “I remember when I finished third here in my second career Nationwide race a couple years ago.
“There’s something about this place that just feels right to me. I wasn’t going to let this thing go, I wasn’t going to let it slip. I gave it everything I had.”
Grandpa Richard — otherwise known as “Pop-Pop” by his grandsons — was understandably proud of his progeny.
“We’ve won here at Dale and Kevin and Paul,” Childress said. “I remembered I said he’d win one day here at Indy.”
Dillon drove the entire race with a broken air conditioning unit.
“When Kyle Busch is pushing you, he doesn’t mess up, so I knew I’d have to drive every lap perfectly,” he said. “If I had passed out going into one of these corners, at least I knew I’d given it the best I had.
“It’s just mind over matter at that point. I knew after the race I was going to be pretty wiped out, but in the moment, I gave it everything I had.”
He also had to worry about running out of fuel, but found just enough to get him to the finish before his tank ran dry on the celebratory burnout.
And with pole-sitter Kyle Busch stalking him for the final 23 laps, Dillon drove like he’s never driven before. Busch gave Dillon – whose younger brother Austin, a Sprint Cup rookie, was watching from the stands – a battle but his Toyota was no match to catch Dillon’s Chevrolet.
“When you’ve got the best guy in the business behind you, it’s tough,” Dillon said. “I’m glad to be able to win this (Dash-4-Cash) check.”
Dillon, just 22, got a great jump on a restart with 23 laps remaining, passed race leader Busch and never looked back in the 100-lap, 250-mile race around the 2.5-mile oval.
“Growing up as a young kid, you always want to come to Indy and win, and today we did,” Dillon’s crew chief, Danny Stockman Jr., told ESPN. “I wouldn’t be afraid to say that we might get on a roll here.”
To celebrate, Dillon did one of the best burnouts that the sport has seen in a long time, staying in place while leaving a deep mark right in front of the brick-laden start/finish line.
“That was really cool,” Childress said. “He’s had some close runs, but to come up here and win against some of the best.”
Kyle Larson finished eighth, followed by Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith.
Chris Buescher finished 11th, followed by Chase Elliott, David Ragan, Dylan Kwasniewski and Elliott Sadler in 15th.
Landon Cassill was 16th, followed by Dakoda Armstrong, Ryan Sieg, Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.