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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MRTI: Toronto digest

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Last year’s visit to the streets of Toronto for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires proved to be a pivotal point in the championship chase that year.

Kyle Kaiser swept both races in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, and doing so gave him firm control over the championship, and he all but clinched it ahead of the season finale at Watkins Glen – Kaiser needed to only start that event to wrap up the title.

And in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while Parker Thompson swept the weekend, Oliver Askew was caught up in a crash in Race 2. Combine that with a second place finish from 2017 title rival Rinus VeeKay – VeeKay also finished third in Race 1 – and it kept the championship within reach of VeeKay, who took it all the way to the finale at The Glen.

The 2018 visit north of the border will likely be remembered for a similar impact on the MRTI championships, both in Indy Lights and USF2000 and, maybe most significantly, in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.

A look at big stories to emerge from a wild weekend on the streets of Toronto is below.

Indy Lights

Santi Urrutia scored a much needed win in Race 2 on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Santi Urrutia’s championship hopes were teetering entering the weekend – he was 49 points out of the lead and had been vastly overshadowed by title combatants Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta for most of the season. But, his Race 2 victory combined with a second place in Race 1 to close him to within 40 points of O’Ward for the championship lead. He’s still a bit of a long shot, but his chances look much brighter leaving Toronto than they did entering.
  • More significantly, Colton Herta’s title hopes may have taken an enormous hit. After crashing in Race 1 qualifying, just after grabbing the pole as well, Herta suffered a thumb fracture that he aggravated again after crashing during Race 1. It forced the team to recommend Herta essentially sit out Race 2 – he pulled off after running only a couple laps and finished sixth – and he dropped to 18 points behind O’Ward, who won Race 1 and finished second in Race 2. The margin is hardly a commanding one for O’Ward, but with the next stop at the ultra-physical Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Herta’s injured hand could remain a factor in the coming races and allow O’Ward to widen the margin.
  • One can’t help but feel bad for Victor Franzoni. Coming off the high of winning his first Indy Lights Race at Road America, Franzoni’s season took a turn for the worse. He crashed in Race 1 and then pulled off in Race 2 in order to conserve finances and resources – Franzoni detailed afterward that the budget is tight for him this year and crash damage from Race 1 does him no good. It would be a genuine shame if Franzoni’s season was derailed by funding issues, as the likeable Brazilian has made great progress all year and has the potential to make it as a Verizon IndyCar Series driver. He just needs the backing to get there.

Pro Mazda

Rinus VeeKay now trails Parker Thompson by only seven points in the Pro Mazda championship. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • No Mazda Road to Indy Championship was shaken up as much as Pro Mazda. Parker Thompson entered the weekend with a sizeable lead of 46 points over Rinus VeeKay. He exits the weekend only seven points ahead after finishes of eighth in both races – he was involved in a crash in Race 1 and made an unscheduled pit stop after thinking he suffered suspension damage in Race 2. Meanwhile, VeeKay dominated the weekend, winning from the pole in both races. It all means that what was once looking like a possible runaway has been all but reset. And we might see a genuine duel between them all the way to the season finale at Portland International Raceway.
  • There are few words to describe the relief everyone felt in seeing Harrison Scott walk away unhurt after his frightening airborne crash in Race 1. This was the first major crash test in a race for the Tatuus PM-18, and it aced it. And big kudos should also be given to the AMR Safety Team, who were already tending to Scott barely a few seconds after his car had come to a rest. Scott did start Race 2, but pulled off with a mechanical problem…which seems minor in comparison to what could have happened in Race 1.
  • Oliver Askew had his best race of the year in Race 2, finishing second to VeeKay for his second podium of the season. It’s been a tough year for Askew and Cape Motorsports after winning last year’s USF2000 title, and getting a podium under their belt could be just what they needed heading into the season’s stretch run.

USF2000

Kyle Kirkwood continued his USF2000 dominance on the streets of Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • After another weekend sweep, Kyle Kirkwood has one hand on the USF2000 championship. He leads Kaylen Frederick by a staggering 131 points – that’s over four road course races worth of points. He may well leave Mid-Ohio as the USF2000 champion. And even if he doesn’t, it would take something unheard of to keep the championship from his grasp.
  • Kaylen Frederick sits second, only three points up on Igor Fraga. Fraga had his best race since Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg, when he finished second, and he nearly outdueled Kirkwood for the win in Race 2. Both he and Frederick have caught fire of late, and their battle for second is very evenly matched.
  • Don’t count out Rasmus Lindh in the battle for second in the championship either. The Swedish driver is seven points behind Frederick and scored his third podium of the year by finishing third in Race 2 at Toronto. Second is well within his reach.

The Mazda Road to Indy is off this weekend before heading to Mid-Ohio, where Indy Lights and USF2000 again have double headers, while Pro Mazda will enjoy a triple header.

Follow@KyleMLavigne