Armed with a new crew chief in veteran Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner, Matt Borland, Ty Dillon's optimism was overflowing when he arrived at the World Center of Racing. After a solid 11th place finish in Thursday night's Can-Am Duel race, Germain Racing had productive practice sessions on Friday and Saturday, leaving the GEICO team energized heading into the 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 rolled off of the starting grid from the 23rd position when the green flag signaled the start of the season's premier event. The super soph immediately broke into the top-20 on the opening lap and was up to 16th place when the day's first caution flag waved on lap nine. Crew Chief Matt Borland ordered his driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and an adjustment. Dillon would visit pit road one additional time before the green flag restarted the race in order to top off the fuel tank in a strategic move that could have potentially paid off later in stage one.
Dillon and his GEICO Camaro ZL1 took off from the 35th position when racing action got back underway on lap 13. Seemingly undaunted, Dillon promptly returned to the top-20 and was riding in the 16th position by the close of lap 20. As he continued what appeared to be an almost effortless charge to the front, Dillon gathered up another four positions and was scored in the 12th position on lap 29. The No. 13 GEICO machine was running 11th with just five laps remaining in the event's opening stage.
The hard-charging Dillon looked poised to enter the top-10 and earn a point in the standings as he hurriedly made his way around the 2.5-mile superspeedway on the final lap of the opening stage. Unfortunately, as the field made it's way to the finish of stage one, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. attempted to block Ryan Blaney, triggering a nine-car crash that collected Dillon, along with Jimmie Johnson and other top drivers. The damage to Dillon's GEICO Camaro ZL1 was significant and his day would be over. He was credited with a 39th place finish.
"Our GEICO Camaro ZL1 was running pretty good," Dillon said after exiting the Infield Care Center. "I was trying to get some stage points. It's really important for us to come out with a good start and I was wanting to be aggressive in the first stage, get some points so we could do whatever we wanted to later on in the race. I saw them crossing lanes up there in the front and I was kind of pinned to the top, and once they started crashing I was just stuck in the oil and didn't really have anywhere to go. I hate it for our guys because they really put in a lot of work to be out so early in the 500, but we have a long season ahead of us, so I can't wait to get to Atlanta and get past all this."
The Germain Racing team will now head to Atlanta, GA, for the second race of the 2018 Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, February 23rd, at 11:35 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 5:15 PM (ET).
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, February 25th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 2:00 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.