After a three-week stint on the West Coast, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returned east to tackle the smallest track on the circuit, Martinsville Speedway, located in Ridgeway, Virginia. Although GEICO Racing driver Ty Dillon had raced at the half-mile paperclip-shaped track previously in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender entered Sunday's race for the first time in the premier series. The 500-lap event proved eventful for Germain Racing as the No. 13 overcame a flat tire mid-way through the race and a wreck in the final stage to cross the finish line in the 22nd position.
With qualifying being rained out on Friday afternoon, the starting lineup was set by championship owner points, placing Dillon in the 23rd position for Sunday's main event. During the opening 100 laps, the young gun held strong inside the top-25 and kept his GEICO Chevrolet out of harms way. An opportunity arose on lap 108 with varying pit strategies up and down pit road, allowing crew chief Bootie Barker to keep Dillon out on the track. This move would place Dillon in fourth-place on the restart with less than 15 laps remaining in stage one. Despite most competitors have fresh tires behind the No. 13 machine, Dillon maneuvered to finish the opening stage in the 11th position.
After fighting an ill-handling GEICO Chevrolet during the beginning segment, Dillon radioed his team by lap 160 with encouragement saying "we're good now" while running in the 25th position, one lap down to the leader. As the second stage came to close on lap 240, Dillon felt a flat right front tire, forcing the team to pit early under caution and restart at the tail end of the field. This would relegate Dillon to the 27th position on the restart, shortly past halfway.
Dillon continued to work hard to place himself in the free pass position for the opportunity to return to the lead lap, but as soon as the driver placed the GEICO Chevrolet in the lucky dog spot, the leader would catch the tail end of the field and place another car one lap down. While running in the 23rd position, Dillon and spotter Billy O'Dea used heads up work to escape a chain reaction wreck in front of the No. 13 on lap 418. The Germain Racing entry sustained minimal left front damage, which the pit crew fixed under caution. Over the final leg, Dillon pushed through to bring home a 22nd-place finish.
"Martinsville is always a battle and today was no different," said Dillon, after the race. "We struggled towards the end of the first stage and went a lap down, but we were able to get the balance how we needed it and started to pick up speed. But, in the nature of short-track racing, the leader catches the back of the pack so quickly and keeps putting cars a lap down. It seemed like every time a caution came out, the leader had just caught a car in the back and knocked us out of the free pass spot. And, it certainly didn't help to be caught up in someone else's wreck there towards the end. I have an awesome team though and our No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet team never lost motivation. They kept fighting to get us where we needed to be."
Race number seven of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season will be held in Fort Worth, Texas. Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Racing team will two-step into Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, April 7for opening practice at 12Noon ET, with qualifying following at 6:15 pm ET.
The green flag will fly for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, April 9 at 1:30 pm ET. FOX will carry the live television broadcast, beginning at 1:00 pm ET. The Performance Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 will also carry the live radio broadcast.
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