Ty Dillon earns emotional 1st Nationwide win at Indianapolis

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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.

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Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”