PHOENIX, Az. – Recovering from a loose race car during NASCAR XFINITY Series qualifying on Saturday morning at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway, NASCAR Next driver Dylan Lupton recovered brilliantly for a top-20 finish in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200.
Pairing up with RSS Racing and teammate Ryan Sieg, Lupton and his team with veteran leadership from Mike Ford consistently worked on the handling of the No. 93 RSS Racing / @LuptonDylan Chevrolet through the three practice sessions on Friday.
Satisfied that they had a well-balanced car for the long run, the team left the track Fridaynight optimistic for the fourth race of the season and Lupton’s first.
Amidst cooler conditions, Lupton bolted from his 28th place qualifying run and quickly moved inside the top-25 by the conclusion of Lap 1, which yielded the race’s first caution.
When racing resumed, Lupton settled into a pace which saw his climb through the leaderboard. Through the run, the Wilton, California native informed his team that his car was loose early – but manageable.
The second yellow flag of the day arrived on Lap 58 for a crash in Turn 3, opening the opportunity for Ford to make adjustments on Lupton’s machine along with four Goodyear tires and Sunoco Racing fuel.
Back to racing on Lap 66, Lupton took advantage of a well-balanced race car and new rubber to make his mark towards the top-20.
Four laps later, Lupton edged his way into the top-20 where he remained through the events third caution on Lap 96 when J.J. Yeley slid into the Turn 4 wall. The yellow flag was a welcomed sign for the RSS Racing team, as Lupton was the first car one lap down — meaning he would become the free pass and return to lead lap status.
With the luxury of getting a lap back also came with stipulations, including Lupton starting at the tail end of the field – where he took the green flag on Lap 102.
As the race stretched into the long green-flag run, Lupton was battling track position compared to the other lead lap cars, but methodically began chasing them down through a resilient attitude and coaching from Ford and spotter David Pepper.
Forced to make their final pit stop under green flag conditions inside the final 20 laps, Lupton gave up 18th place for four tires and one can of fuel.
Dropping him to 21st as pit stops cycled through, Lupton found himself on the bumper of fellow competitor Dakoda Armstrong for 18th, but ran out of laps and took the checkered flag in 19th, matching his best XFINITY outing at the 1.0-mile oval in two starts.
“After battling a wicked loose race car in qualifying, we made some steady gains during the race which were able to put us in the top-20. In the end, we didn’t have the track position that we needed to have a better finish, but I’m still proud of everyone on this RSS Racing team for their hard work all weekend. Mike (Ford), Mark (Gibson) and David (Pepper) were instrumental in making the weekend successful and I appreciate that.”
“Hopefully, we can take this momentum to California next weekend and earn a top-15 finish. I’m looking forward to it.”
- Dylan Lupton finished 19th in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200, matching a career-best in two NASCAR XFINITY Series races at the 1.0-mile speedway.
- Lupton ran as high as 18th and as low as 28th, but earned an Average Running Position (ARP) of 20.60 in the 200-lap race. He also carried a 65.2 driver rating.
- Teammate Ryan Sieg finished 27th in the Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 driving the No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet and sits 15thin the championship standings after four races.
- Lupton made his ninth career XFINTIY Series start at PIR, earning his fifth top-20 finish in series competition. The UNNC-Charlotte senior made his XFINITY Series debut in the desert last March, also finishing 19th for Athenian Motorsports.
- Kyle Busch won the 12th annual Axalta Faster. Tougher. Brighter. 200 followed by Erik Jones (second), Daniel Suarez (third), Justin Allgaier (fourth) and Chase Elliott (fifth).
Next Race: XFINITY 300 at Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway on Saturday, Mar. 19
For more on Dylan Lupton follow him on Twitter @LuptonDylan or visit LuptonRacing.com.
Credit: Danny Dugan