RACE REVIEW: Ty Dillon at the GEICO 500
After a much-deserved break, Germain Racing made their way to Talladega for GEICO's marquee weekend in an effort to continue the strong season they've experienced thus far. Just nine races into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Ty Dillon and company have collected a top-10 at Daytona, a trio of top-15's and a Stage win at Bristol Motor Speedway. The GEICO team's visit to Talladega Superspeedway for race number 10 would yield similar results by the time they departed the track on Sunday evening.
This weekend marked Dillon's 100th NASCAR Cup Series start and the experienced he's gained in that time was evident when he took to the track on Friday. When he rolled into the speedway for practice, the famed GEICO Gecko was already on-hand to celebrate his arrival.
In the opening GEICO 500 practice, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 topped out at a blazing 201.481-miles per hour and landed ninth on the speed chart. When qualifying got underway on Saturday afternoon, Dillon zipped around the historic high-banked 2.66-mile superspeedway and garnered a 13th place starting position for Sunday's GEICO 500.
Taking to the starting grid on Sunday for what would be his 100th NASCAR Cup Series start, Dillon had only winning on his mind when he climbed into his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1.
As the green flag flew to signal the start of the GEICO 500, Dillon took off from the 13th position and quickly began working with his fellow Chevrolet teammates. The No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 stayed inside the top-15 during the opening run and when the first yellow flag slowed the pace on lap 12, Crew Chief Matt Borland brought Dillon to pit road for four tires, fuel and a minor chassis adjustment to help with a loose-handling condition. With varying pit strategies, the 27-year-old continued his work with the Chevrolet camp when the field returned to green and, within a handful of laps, Dillon methodically worked his way back inside the top-10.
Working the outside lane with five laps to go, Dillon charged to the lead, placing the GEICO Camaro at the top of the scoring tower in the GEICO 500. He maintained the lead using intense driving skills in both single and double-file drafting to hold off Alex Bowman and a host of others to win Stage 1. This marked Dillon and Germain Racing's second stage win of the 2019 season. Chevrolet as a whole has recorded four total stage wins this year, with Dillon and the GEICO team accounting for half of them; a worthy accomplishment that has raised the eyebrows of everyone in the NASCAR garage.
After pitting for fresh tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment, Dillon started the second stage from the eighth position. Quickly, the GEICO Camaro ZL1 was back inside the top-five, running single-file with the 'bowtie brigade'. As the laps clicked away, the Germain Racing Chevrolet developed a very loose sensation, creating a challenge for Dillon to keep the Gecko-adorned car in the bottom lane. With two laps to go in Stage 2, and running in the sixth position, the loose-handling condition got the best of Dillon and he was split by the field, relegating the No. 13 to 16th-place when the second stage concluded.
When Borland ordered Dillon to pit road for a scheduled stop during the stage break caution, the GEICO team found the culprit of why the No. 13 Camaro ZL1 was extremely loose; the left rear tire was slowly losing air, which significantly altered the handling of Dillon's machine. After pitting a second time just to ensure that nothing was rubbing on the GEICO Chevrolet, Dillon restarted from the 23rd position.
The action picked up on the track as the field began running three and four-wide with the laps counting down. The 'big one' came with seven laps to go and Dillon, with help from his spotter, Billy O'Dea, successfully navigated the carnage. When the field restarted with four laps remaining, Dillon was the "middle of four" and held a spot inside the top-15. Another multi-car accident occurred on the final lap and, after surviving the chaos for a second time and slowing to avoid contact that would have resulted in near-certain peril, Dillon crossed the finish line in the 17th position.
Despite the deceiving finishing position, Dillon is now one of just a few drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series to have recorded multiple stage wins this season.
"I'm really proud of our effort today. We want to win the GEICO 500, but we did win something today (Stage 1), so that's always good," Dillon said after exiting his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1. "Winning this second stage is massive. I don't think anyone expected us to win two stages this year, so we're proud of that. We're going to keep clicking along. We were really happy with the way we did it at Bristol and we surprised ourselves to do it here at Talladega. Who knows how many more we can get, but I'm just really proud."
Germain Racing will now head to Dover, DE, where June 2007 saw Dillon lead 27-laps in his GEICO machine. The Monster Mile will be race number 11 of 36 on the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 Twisted Tea Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Dover International Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, May 3rd, at 11:05 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 3:40 PM (ET).
The Gander RV 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, May 5th, and it will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 2 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
Please visit www.GEICO.com to learn how you could save money on more than just auto insurance.
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