Germain Racing and Ty Dillon turned in a strong run at Richmond last week, leaving them full of optimism when they arrived at a Talladega Superspeedway draped in the GEICO corporate colors. The insurance giant's marquis event, the GEICO 500, found the team feeling excited as the famous Gecko strolled the grounds of the legendary superspeedway while the group readied for Friday's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practices.
Dillon sauntered confidently through the garage and his swagger was well-founded. The youngster climbed behind the wheel of the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 and shot straight up the charts, ending the session atop the scoring tower in the first position. Dillon's speed topped out just a shade under a head-turning 203-mph, over a tenth of a second faster than Daniel Suarez and Kyle Busch, who were second and third, respectively.
Final practice followed suit for Dillon and he officially posted the second fastest time of the session, but would later get collected in a crash when Jamie McMurray went airborne after making contact with Ryan Newman. Germain Racing was forced to roll out the back-up car and scramble to get it put together prior to Saturday's qualifying session. They were successful and the GEICO Camaro ZL1 was awaiting Dillon's arrival when qualifying got underway. Despite not having turned a single practice lap in the car, the GEICO driver posted the 29th fastest time.
NASCAR rules dictate that if a driver starts a race in his back-up car, they must begin the event from the rear of the field. Dillon would do so, rolling off of the starting grid from the 40th position when things got underway amid packed grandstands and picturesque springtime weather.
Starting at the rear of the field, Dillon and company opted for a conservative strategy when the green flag turned the field loose for 500-miles of intense racing action. Dillon cruised the 2.66-mile facility, keeping a watchful eye on the restless pack of racecars in front of his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1. The young gun exercised a veteran's calm as he patiently and methodically picked up positions, moving into 28th in the opening few laps before making his way up to the 10th position by the close of lap 32. The crew's hard work in preparing the back-up car was evident, as Dillon appeared to navigate the field with relative ease.
While the GEICO Camaro ZL1 was strong, timing dealt Dillon a setback when he was faced with a flat tire with just a single lap remaining in the event's opening stage. While he managed to avoid almost certain peril, Dillon was forced to visit pit road as the field put him a lap down as they closed out stage one on lap 55. The team was seemingly unaffected, focusing only on making it to the final stage of the race where they would, inevitably, make a run to the front of the field.
With 132 of 188-laps complete, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 returned to the lead lap after the fourth caution of the day slowed the field. He restarted the race from the 28th position, but now back in contention, the inspired young gun made good use of his opportunity, charging back into the top-25. The sixth caution of the afternoon raised the eyebrows of Dillon and the Germain Racing team, as the 'big one' occurred just in front of the GEICO Camaro ZL1, leaving damaged racecars blanketed across the high-banked superspeedway. With the help of spotter, Billy O'Dea, Dillon masterfully avoided the incident and continued his trek to the front.
With a brief ten-laps remaining in the advertised distance, Dillon was running solidly in the top-15. When the checkered flag brought the GEICO 500 to a close, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 crossed the finish line in the 15th position, marking an incredible comeback that saw the super sophomore overcome a one-lap deficit and pilot the team's back-up car from the back to the front.
"GEICO 500 weekend was not an easy one for us. Our primary car was incredibly fast in practice, but we were forced to pull out our back-up car after I got caught up in the big wreck on Friday," Dillon said after climbing from his GEICO Camaro ZL1. "We were confident in this back-up car though because it has run well at superspeedways in the past. We knew that we wanted to run a conservative race at the beginning after we got too aggressive in Daytona and were taken out before the end of stage one. Our plan to survive worked, but we were faced with a tire issue early on and had to come back from a lap down. It is not how we wanted to race, but we battled back to the lead lap and a top-15 finish. A solid finish is exactly what we needed. I know it was a tough weekend for our GEICO Camaro ZL1 team, and I appreciate all of their hard work to keep us in this thing."
With the season's second restrictor-plate race of the year in the rearview mirror, Germain Racing will load up the No. 13 machine and make a visit to the Gecko's backyard in Dover, DE. The fast one-mile, high-banked oval, more affectionately known as the 'Monster Mile', is located less than 100-miles from GEICO's corporate office in Washington, DC.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Dover International Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, May 4th, at 10:35 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 3:20 PM (ET).
The AAA Drive for Autism Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, May 6th, and it will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 2:00 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.