While the first half of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season has been less than ideal for Ty Dillon and the GEICO Racing team, their commitment to excellence continues to shine through. The Matt Borland-led crew works daily to improve the on-track performance of the GEICO Camaro ZL1 and Sunday's 301-lap race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway showed progress as the No. 13 machine was consistently fast from the opening green flag to the closing checkered.
After posting a solid qualifying effort of 25th and missing the second round by just .007 of a second, Dillon and the GEICO team were ready for racing action at the flat one-mile oval. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans as the start time was pushed more than three hours on Sunday afternoon. Once the skies cleared and the track drying commenced, the green-and-blue Camaro ZL1 took to the track. As Dillon received the one to go signal, the 26-year-old was forced to come to the attention of his pit crew, relegating the young gun to start from the tail end of the field.
By lap 50, Dillon found himself inside the top-25 and battling for position on the lead lap. When a caution flew for the fourth time four laps later, Dillon reported a "little free in, tight three-quarters of the way around" handling condition, prompting Borland to call the GEICO Camaro ZL1 to pit road for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments. With 20 laps to go in Stage 1, Dillon restarted from 30th-place. In just eight short laps, the No. 13 Camaro ZL1 held the 23rd position and when the opening segment came to a close on lap 75, Dillon was scored in 18th-place.
As the second stage began under cloudy, but clear skies, Dillon rolled from the 17th position after his Germain Racing over-the-wall crew gained a spot on pit road. Misfortune struck on lap 83 as NASCAR called Dillon for a restart violation, forcing the GEICO Camaro ZL1 to serve a pass-through penalty under green flag conditions. The sophomore driver completed his penalty without losing a lap to the leader, while running in 34th-place. At the conclusion of Stage 2, Dillon radioed to his crew that the car was "really good" as the No. 13 Camaro ZL1 had returned to the top-30.
Starting the third and final stage from the 32nd position after being blocked in his stall on pit road, Dillon drove his way back into 26th-place and the free-pass position in a short seven laps. With the GEICO Camaro ZL1 posting solid lap times, Dillon began passing competitors on the lead lap, while still being marred one lap down. Unluckily, the caution never came in time for the Germain Racing team, forcing Dillon to settle with a 23rd-place finish.
"This GEICO Camaro ZL1 was incredibly fast today," said Dillon, after the race. "It was one of the best pieces that we have brought to the racetrack all year. I hate that my restart violation at the start of Stage 2 put us behind. Matt (Borland, crew chief) made every strategy call that he could to keep us in the game and get laps back, but we never could get back ahead. I have no doubt that this was a top-10 car, and I'm disappointed that we couldn't show everyone that. But, we're still only halfway through the season with a lot of racing left. We can't and won't let ourselves get down. We will put one of these races together from start to finish here soon."
Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO team will now travel to Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the second time this season, as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway. Opening practice will take place on Saturday, July 28th at 9:00AM ET, with qualifying scheduled for later that afternoon at 4:10PM ET.
The green flag will fly on Sunday, July 29th at 2:30PM ET. NBCSN will carry the live television broadcast, with the Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 carrying the live radio broadcast.