Ty Dillon and the Germain Racing crew returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway looking to build upon their solid performance at the Monster Energy Open last weekend. After many starts in the Xfinity Series, the Coca-Cola 600 would be Dillon's first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile oval. He would have to use his instincts, training, as well as trust his crew chief, Bootie Barker, to help guide him through the longest race of the year.
Although the Coca-Cola 600 is one of the biggest races of the year, the weekend wasn't all about racing. It was also about honoring those that have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Dillon and Germain Racing were honored to feature Marine Corporal Nathaniel Hammond, who lost his life in Iraq, on the windshield of the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy. On hand for the race were members of Hammond's family, along with one of his fellow service members from the 2nd Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Despite the hard work of the Germain Racing team, their 27th place qualifying effort was voided when a nail was found in the sidewall of one of their tires. The team would be forced to swap the bad tires for good ones and start the race from the rear of the field, per a NASCAR rule that requires drivers to begin the race on the same tires on which they qualify. With 600-miles of racing set before them, Dillon and the GEICO Military team were unfazed, given they would be permitted significant time to recover lost ground.
When the green flagged waved, Dillon immediately went to work. In just 15 laps, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate picked up 9 positions. Unfortunately, he then made contact with the No. 47 Chevrolet of A.J. Allmendinger, causing a left-rear tire rub and damage to the quarter panel. Dillon quickly delivered the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy to pit road for repairs, along with four fresh Goodyear tires. He found himself one lap down early in the race, so the balance of Stage 1 saw crew chief Bootie Barker use strategy in an attempt to return to the lead lap. Germain Racing had to make additional adjustments to help with looseness on entry at the stage break. This adjustment allowed Dillon additional speed, and he began to run lap times consistent with cars at the front of the field.
Dillon and his GEICO Military Chevy continued to log top-10 lap times through the beginning of Stage 2 until Mother Nature imposed her will on the 400-lap event. The race was red flagged on lap 143 due to nearby lighting, which was followed by heavy wind and rain.
The field was back to green flag racing after a two-hour rain delay. Once back on the track to finish Stage 2, Crew Chief Bootie Barker instructed Dillon that the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy was going to make long runs in an effort to ultimately rejoin the lead lap. After taking the wave-around during the caution before the start of Stage 3, Dillon had gained ground, but remained a lap down to the leaders.
Things were looking up for Germain racing at the beginning of Stage 3. They believed they could continue to make gains by employing a fuel strategy, as well as the goal of making it through the stage by pitting just once. Dillon continued to hustle around the mile and a half facility until heavy smoke began billowing from the rear of the car. On Lap 245, the No. 13 GEICO Military Chevy was forced to go behind the wall. The rear-end gear broke and blew a hole in the housing, ending the comeback early. Dillon completed just 242 of the prescribed 400-laps and was credited with a 36th place finish.
"We felt we had a great GEICO Military Chevy coming into tonight, but unfortunately it didn't end as we expected," said Dillon after the race. "We made contact with the No. 47 and put the fender on our left rear tire, and we had to come in and do a green flag stop out of the gate, which put us two laps down. We were trying things to get some laps back to eventually get back on the lead lap. In spite of our great efforts as a team, it just wasn't our day. We've had a great year so far, and I'm proud we were able honor Corporal Nathaniel Hammond on the windshield, and to have his family and one of his fellow service member at the track with us."
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series now heads to Dover, Delaware to Dover International Speedway. Dillon and the GEICO No. 13 Chevrolet will hit the track Friday, June 2nd for opening practice at 10:30AM ET. Qualifying will follow at 3:50PM ET.
The AAA 400 Drive for Autism will take place on Sunday, June 4th, with FS1 covering the race live beginning at 1:00PM ET. The Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio channel 90 will also have the live radio broadcast.