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Austin Dillon clinches NASCAR truck series championship

Austin Dillon, front, and his crew celebrate the 21-year-old driver’s first NASCAR championship after the truck series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dillon finished sixth in the race, better than he needed to clinch the title, which he won by six points over Johnny Sauter.

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Austin Dillon, front, and his crew celebrate the 21-year-old driver’s first NASCAR championship after the truck series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dillon finished sixth in the race, better than he needed to clinch the title, which he won by six points over Johnny Sauter.

HOMESTEAD — Austin Dillon climbed out of his No. 3 truck and dived across the rain-soaked grass.

He took another header a few minutes later — on concrete. Yep, the youngster wanted to celebrate by planking on pavement.

"That's called the Superman," Dillon said.

It was the biggest chance he took all night.

All Dillon needed to do was stay out of trouble in the season finale and run like he has all season — near the front — and he would win the NASCAR truck series championship.

So he played it safe and ended up with the biggest milestone of his life. The 21-year-old grandson of NASCAR team owner Richard Childress finished 10th Friday night in the Ford 200, the series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, to clinch the title.

"It's amazing. You get to spray champagne everywhere," he said of a drink he's old enough to legally enjoy by seven months. "It's the best feeling in the world."

Dillon is the youngest champ in series history. He also stands as one of racing's up-and-coming drivers. He is scheduled to drive a full schedule in the second-tier Nationwide series in 2012.

"He handles pressure better than a lot of people his age," said Childress, who called the championship one of his most memorable, up there with the Sprint Cup crowns he enjoyed with the late Dale Earnhardt.

Johnny Sauter won the rain-shortened race, holding off Denny Hamlin just before the final caution dropped. The sky opened up with 15 laps left.

Sauter finished second in points, six behind Dillon. James Buescher was third.

Dillon needed to finish only 16th or better to secure the title. He watched Any Which Way But Loose, the 1978 movie starring Clint Eastwood, to pass time before the race. It was a fitting title because he absolutely had to stay out of trouble.

Buescher ended up in the middle of chaos.

Kevin Harvick almost wrecked Buescher on an early restart and bumped him later in the same green-flag run. Then on the next pit stop, as Buescher slowed to turn down pit road, Harvick tried to pass him on the outside. Buescher then turned into Harvick, nearly spinning him around.

"One of those deals," Harvick said. "He's got a lot to learn, and I was just thinking in my head, 'Don't be Kyle Busch. Don't be Kyle Busch. Just do your thing.'

"Last week was a good lesson for me, too," Harvick added, referring to Busch getting parked for intentionally wrecking Ron Hornaday — who was in a truck owned by Harvick — in a race two weeks earlier.

Austin Dillon clinches NASCAR truck series championship 11/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, November 19, 2011 12:33am]
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