Each year Darlington Raceway puts on one of the most exciting and anticipated events of the year, as they pay homage to the history of NASCAR. Teams arrive at the track dubbed 'Too Tough to Tame' with racecars boasting paint schemes from years past, leaving fans, drivers and crew members alike feeling nostalgic.
This year, Germain Racing opted to celebrate their 10-year partnership with GEICO in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series by draping their No. 13 Camaro ZL1 in the colors originally donned by the car when they made their foray into the series in 2009. While Max Papis initially piloted the stylish red, white and blue GEICO machine, Casey Mears took over driving duties in 2010 before turning the wheel over to young gun, Ty Dillon in 2017.
Coming off of a strong 21st place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway before the off-week, Dillon and company aimed to continue building momentum as the series returned to action this weekend in South Carolina. The team's efforts would be rewarded by the conclusion of 'throwback' weekend and momentum continued along with the group as they returned home after the race on Sunday night.
When practice got underway on Friday, Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 looked sporty, as he wrapped up the session just behind Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, in the 23rd position. Qualifying followed on Saturday afternoon and Dillon would pace the 1.366-mile paved oval in just 28.542-seconds, at a speed of 172.293-miles per hour, placing him 28th on Sunday night's starting grid, just ahead of Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.
As drivers took to the starting grid on Sunday evening, they quickly found themselves in a holding pattern with a weather delay intervening. Rather than tuck himself away on his bus, Dillon quickly took center stage on the racetrack, single-handedly orchestrating a 'wave' that quickly spread throughout the packed grandstands. It was a full house, so Dillon's efforts were captured live on the NBCSN television broadcast and have been well documented on social media channels, leaving the young gun with a lot of new fans.
Not long after the conclusion of Dillon's brief stint as the track's hype-man, he slid behind the wheel of his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 and readied for 367-laps of racing action and a dance with the Lady in Black. The green flag soon waved over the field, signaling the start of the legendary Bojangle's Southern 500. Starting 28th, Dillon quickly began picking up positions and, in the opening three laps, the GEICO machine passed five cars and landed in 23rd place.
If Darlington Raceway is 'Too Tough to Tame', one couldn't tell by watching Dillon hustle effortlessly around the challenging facility. His GEICO Camaro ZL1 felt good and on lap 101, he shared his thoughts with crew chief, Matt Borland, as the race's opening stage came to an end, "Pretty good balance. That was a good adjustment. I can't really ask for much more, but maybe a little air pressure adjustment." The Germain Racing pit crew was on-point throughout the night and they would not fail to deliver a quick stop on lap 105 when they outfitted Dillon with four fresh tires and fuel and returned him to the racing surface four positions to the good, in 20th place. "Good stop, fellas," Borland said, while an enthusiastic Dillon chimed in, "Heck of a stop, boys."
Dillon had a strong run throughout the evening, even dipping into the top-10 at one point. The No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 was quick and, on lap 188, Dillon turned heads when he passed the leader, Kyle Larson, to regain a lap the old fashioned way. After nearly four-hours of racing and a heated 501.322-miles of door-to-door action, the checkered flag was displayed and Dillon scored a 21st place finish after out-hustling A.J. Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth to the finish line.
"Solid day, guys. That was a good day. We still have room to grow, but that was a really good run. Thanks for the hard work," Dillon said just after taking the checkered flag. Borland added, "Good job today, guys. Thanks for the hard work all weekend. Nice job, Ty, and nice pit stops by the crew, too. We will keep getting better."
The back half of the season has brought with it a much-desired turning of the tide for the GEICO Racing team. Dillon has now recorded six top-25 finishes in his last eight starts, including a sixth place result at Daytona and two consecutive 21st place finishes in the last two events, Bristol and Darlington.
"Darlington is always such a fun weekend. There's an exciting energy around the history of our sport and all of the throwback paint schemes that teams bring to the track," Dillon said. "It was fun to carry this GEICO scheme from 2009 that Germain Racing ran at the start of their partnership with GEICO in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. We are honoring 10 seasons of partnership this year, and I'm proud to be part of this program. We had a good race tonight. I was pretty tight during the first run of the night, but my team made smart adjustments to get my balance where I needed it. I just could have used more overall grip. There's always room to grow, but this was a solid night for our team. Now we'll turn our focus to Indianapolis."
Germain Racing will now set sail for the world famous Brickyard for race number 26 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Indianapolis is near and dear to Dillon's heart, as this is the venue where he collected his first NASCAR Xfinity Series win back in 2014.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Saturday, September 8th, at 10:30 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 6:15 PM (ET).
The Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, September 9th, and it will be televised live on NBCSN beginning at 2 PM (ET). The IMS Radio Network will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.