RACE REPORT: Daytona 500
Ty Dillon kicked off Speedweeks quickly, in every sense of the word. The GEICO driver eclipsed 203-miles per hour and finished up first fastest in the opening Daytona 500 practice session before posting the fourth quickest time in Friday's practice. Only Mother Nature would impede his progress on Sunday when the race went green. Rain would halt the 62nd running of the Daytona 500 on lap 20 and push the balance of the event to Monday afternoon.
After a gear change during practice, Dillon was forced to start Sunday's Daytona 500 from the rear of the field. This served as little consequence, given that when the green flag waved, Dillon hustled the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE to the front of the field. He went from 40th to 16th in just two laps and, by lap five, was running solidly in the ninth position, where he remained until rain blanketed the Daytona area on lap 20.
Mother Nature took the win on Sunday, but Monday gave way to bright sunshine and 180-laps of racing. Scheduled to restart in the ninth position, Dillon opted for a strategy move that sent him down pit road for tires and fuel just before taking the green flag. Despite restarting from the 19th position, the gamble taken by crew chief, Matt Borland, paid off and Dillon quickly pedaled the GEICO Camaro back into the ninth position. He remained in the top-10 until the conclusion of the opening Stage of the race, which earned him a valuable Stage Point.
Dillon was able to wheel his GEICO Chevy to the front of the field at will and, with just 22-laps to go in the advertised distance, was scored in the fourth position. On lap 185, Dillon's cat-like reflexes came in handy when the 'big one' occurred and the GEICO driver masterfully avoided a pack of crashing cars and emerged from the melee with only a scuffed left front fender. Dillon was in the ninth position and charging as the race wound down.
As the end of the Great American Race neared, gamesmanship was prevailing among the front few cars, which is a risky endeavor at 200-mph on a 2.5-mile high-banked superspeedway. Dillon opted to keep his car safe and backed up a bit. He remained solidly in the top-15 and with two laps to go in the 200-lap race, Dillon began moving the No. 13 GEICO Camaro to the front, carefully picking off the cars in front of him. With just over a lap remaining, Ross Chastain triggered an eight-car crash that collected Dillon and sent him hard into the outside wall. Despite the heavy contact, Dillon was able to climb from his car and walk away from the incident. He was treated and released from the Infield Care Center.
Dillon and the GEICO team's speed during Daytona Speedweeks was remarkable, but they were served an undeserving 30th place finish on Monday night. Despite the tough outing, Germain Racing's record at Daytona International Speedway over the years is nearly unmatched. Their success and speed at the World Center of Racing is well-documented. The group will now move forward and turn their attention to next week's race in Las Vegas.
"Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE was very fast throughout the entire week. Matt (Borland, crew chief) and I communicated well and we kept making the car better with each run," Dillon said after being released from the Infield Care Center. "Our team was optimistic heading into the 500 and we had a very strong start going from the rear to the top-10 in the opening laps and then picking up a stage point." He continued, "I was able to avoid the first big one and just had minor fender damage from when I hit the apron to miss the wreck. Unfortunately, our night ended sooner than we had hoped in the next crash. I feel like I might have been hooked in the right rear, but not sure. It was a hard hit. We will move forward to Las Vegas."
Germain Racing will now head west to Las Vegas, NV, for the second race of the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 1LE will hit the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, February 21st, at 4:05 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow on Saturday at 2:35 PM (ET).
The Las Vegas 400 is on Sunday, February 23rd, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:30 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.