Austin Dillon doing what he has to do so far in rookie year

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Going into the Easter break, Kyle Larson leads Austin Dillon in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year standings after earning three Top-10s in the last four racesincluding a runner-up at Fontana.

And over in the Nationwide Series, Chase Elliott has gotten the NASCAR Nation buzzing after back-to-back victories at Texas and last Friday night at Darlington.

So has Dillon, who entered the season with the most controversy of any NASCAR rookie thanks to his and car owner Richard Childress’ revival of the famous No. 3, become the forgotten young gun?

Hardly.

While Larson has certainly had the more eye-popping moments in their duel for Cup ROTY honors, Dillon is doing the No. 1 job of any rookie and that’s logging laps and getting the car home in one piece.

Dillon has just one Top-10 (a ninth in the season-opening Daytona 500) to Larson’s four, but has earned six finishes inside the Top 20 and has no DNFs.

Larson’s been more up-and-down, with finishes of 38th at Daytona and 27th at Martinsville; additionally, before claiming his first Top 10 at Bristol, his best finish in the first three races was a 19th at Las Vegas.

As a result, Dillon sits 10th in the overall Sprint Cup championship, while Larson’s a bit farther back at 15th.

Dillon’s 11th-place showing at Darlington was, strangely enough, his third 11th-place finish of the season. So it’s not as if he’s that far off from Larson in regards to the more attention-grabbing results.

“We’re certainly on the cusp of finishing within the top-10,” he said on Saturday night. “We’ll take it. We worked hard tonight and I’m learning each week.

“I can’t wait to come to Darlington Raceway, and all of these tracks on the schedule, for the second and third times. We will be a very tough team the second half of this season.”

We’ll see if he’s right. He – and Larson – would be in the Chase Grid if the Sprint Cup regular season started today.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.