When Ty Dillon and Germain Racing made the trip to Talladega, Alabama, in May for the GEICO 500, the group managed to escape the challenging superspeedway with a 13th place finish and a racecar that remained intact, a feat not easily accomplished in unpredictable NASCAR restrictor-plate racing. They aimed to top their result and make their way to the front of the field when Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS hit the track this weekend for the final restrictor-plate race of the 2017 season.
Dillon dealt excitement and optimism to crew chief, Bootie Barker, and company when he placed the GEICO Chevy 11th and 13th fastest on the board in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' two practice sessions on Friday. On Saturday, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate gave the Gecko a whirl when he cruised the 2.66-mile facility in 50.877-seconds, at a brisk speed of 188.219-miles per hour. His effort landed him 25th on Sunday's starting grid, a three spot improvement over where the team started the race in May.
Rain threatened on Sunday morning, but ultimately gave way to bright sunshine and heated temperatures as the GEICO team took to the Alabama 500 starting grid. During pre-race activities, a passerby mentioned to Dillon that he should take care of his car and stay out of trouble, possibly at the rear of the field. "I'm going to the front; I came here to win," the young gun replied, and his response set the tone for the day.
When the green flag signaled the start of 500-miles of three-wide, door-to-door racing action, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Chevy rolled off the starting grid from the 25th position, but immediately began making progress. The hard-charging rookie bobbed and weaved his way to the front of the field and found himself running in the fifth position by lap 15. He would later have the GEICO Chevy as high as the third position, but most notably, Dillon was able to avoid peril on multiple occasions, even escaping any significant damage when a spinning car made contact with him late in the race.
Five laps remained in the advertised distance when a red flag brought the field to a halt for the final time before making a run to the end. The race returned to green with only three laps to go and Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Chevy restarted from the fifth position, just behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Earnhardt, Jr. quickly pulled up to the rear bumper of the car of Brad Keselowski, leaving Dillon hung out to dry with no help in sight. Despite being left without drafting assistance, Dillon continued to hustle around the historic racetrack and managed to score an 11th place finish when the checkered flag closed out 188-laps of exciting racing action.
"We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast," Dillon said after climbing from his GEICO machine. "We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn't anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn't get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It's just tough and it's disappointing we couldn't get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end."
Germain Racing will now pack up and head to the Sunflower State for race number 32 of the 2017 Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Kansas Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, October 20th, at 1:00 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:15 PM (ET).
The Hollywood Casino 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, October 22nd, and it will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 3:00 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.