Most rookies may experience a case of the nerves when making their debut in Indianapolis in any given racing series, but Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ty Dillon felt right at home this weekend. After all, the GEICO driver collected his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a rookie in 2014 when he blew by Kyle Busch to snag the trophy and kiss the bricks. He would again find himself at the front of the field at the end of the race on Sunday after withstanding a rain delay and the Midwestern heat and humidity.
The young gun would be handed a full schedule on Saturday. He would hit the track in the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS for two hours of Cup Series practice in the morning before spending the bulk of the day piloting his Xfinity Series entry, all while contending with heat that exceeded the 100-degree mark. When the checkered flag signaled the end of the Xfinity Series event on Saturday evening, Dillon quickly transitioned to the GEICO Chevy, where he would make his qualifying laps and register a 28th place starting position for Sunday's 24th Annual Brickyard 400.
When race day arrived, the unrelenting heat returned, but with rain in tow. The green flag waved at the scheduled time, but just 11-laps into the race, NASCAR displayed the red flag and ordered the field down pit road in anticipation of an impending storm. In just under two hours, the track was dry and racing resumed at the Racing Capital of the World.
Dillon found himself at odds with the handling of his GEICO Chevrolet early in the race, but continued to pick up positions. Crew chief, Bootie Barker, maintained constant communication with his driver and discussed ways to improve the car. As they've done each week, Germain Racing's pit crew would continue to impress and make the necessary changes during each stop, while never costing Dillon and his GEICO Chevy any real estate. The team's persistence throughout the afternoon would pay dividends as the race began to wind down.
Seemingly unfazed by the blistering heat and the bevy of yellow flags that were waving, Dillon continued his trek forward and was running in the ninth position with just 25 laps remaining in the advertised distance of the race. With the exception of a momentary drop to 11th, he maintained his top-10 status and hustled the GEICO Chevy up to seventh place as the checkered flag drew nearer. The race went into overtime and the GEICO machine was in the ninth position when the racecar of Denny Hamlin shot up the track, collecting both Dillon and Paul Menard on the final lap. Dillon, who has seemingly taken up residence at the front of the field this year, was relegated to a 19th place finish after being in contention at the end of the race.
"That was heartbreaking. The GEICO Chevy crew did an awesome job keeping us in the game on pit road today," Dillon said. "We made adjustments that helped the car and we learned so much that will help us when we come back to this place. This Germain Racing team worked so hard and we were there at the end and in position for a good finish. I love Indy, but I don't love leaving it with unfinished business like that. We will be back."
Germain Racing will now return to the Tricky Triangle for race number 21 of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Pocono Raceway for the weekend's opening practice session on Saturday, July 29th, at 9:00 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow on Sunday at 11:30 AM (ET).
The Overton's 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, July 30th, and it will be televised live on NBC Sports Network beginning at 3:00 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.