As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season approaches the midway point, Ty Dillon has escaped the rookie stereotype and has been successful in each of his visits to the track this year. He's logged more laps as the leader than any other rookie and at Dover had his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS in contention for the win before a last lap crash dashed his hopes and left him 14th. His visit to Sonoma over the weekend marked Dillon's debut at the challenging and scenic northern California road course.
While initially Dillon appeared to struggle in practice after running off of the course on two occasions, and later qualifying 35th, the youngster was a quick study and rebounded well when the race got underway on Sunday. Sonoma Raceway can be a challenging place to make up lost ground, but the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate seemed to do it with relative ease as he hustled his GEICO Chevy around the 12-turns that make up the 1.99-mile race circuit.
Blue skies and bright sunshine watched overhead as the green flag signaled the start of the season's first road course race. Dillon started the day in the 35th position and spent the opening laps settling in before his ascent through the field. He finished up stage one in 16th place before completing stage two in 15th, marking 20-positions gained as Dillon continued to pedal his No. 13 GEICO Chevy towards the front of the field. Crew chief Bootie Barker and the Germain Racing pit crew executed well in their support of Dillon's effort.
Things were going well until Dillon reported a heavy vibration in the right rear of his racecar on lap 61. After completing two subsequent laps, Barker ordered the GEICO Chevy to pit road under green flag conditions in order to avoid potential calamity. After receiving four fresh tires and fuel, the vibration was gone and he returned to the race a lap down to the field and scrambling to gather lost real estate. While he would be relegated to the bottom of the scoring chart, Dillon persevered, as he began turning lap times faster than the leaders. When the checkered flag halted the field after 110-laps of racing, Dillon was credited with a 28th place finish, but departed the facility with a book of mental notes in anticipation of next year's event.
"With this being my first race at Sonoma, I was really looking forward to today," Dillon said after exiting his GEICO Chevrolet. "The car was pretty good. In the early laps, I needed some adjustments to help with the handling and the Germain crew did a great job. I was able to make decent lap times and learn a lot. We developed a vibration that brought us to pit road off-sequence in the final race stage and we never got the caution we needed to come back from that. The GEICO Chevy was better than 28th. Now I've got my first Sonoma race under my belt and the car is in pretty good shape. It was a good day overall."
Germain Racing will now pack up the GEICO car and head to Daytona to kick-off the back half of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Daytona International Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Thursday, June 29th, at 3:00 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow on Friday at 4:10 PM (ET).
The Coke Zero 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Saturday, July 1st, and it will be televised live on NBC beginning at 7:30 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.