When Germain Racing touched down in south Florida for the season finale in Homestead, optimism was abound after the team turned in solid results in the previous five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, giving way to a strong finish to the year. The results left the team hopeful when they sent Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 out to do battle for the final time in the 2018 season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
When Dillon and his GEICO crew took to the starting grid for Sunday's 400-mile event, they were prepared for a late afternoon start time that would begin the race amid the bright sunshine and Florida heat before surrendering to the night and cooler temperatures.
During the parade laps, Dillon took to the team's radio frequency to share some final thoughts before racing action got underway. "All right guys, one last time for 2018," he said. "I appreciate all of your hard work this season and you all mean a lot to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Let's have a good day to finish the season." And, a good day is what the GEICO team would have when the dust settled a few hours later under the night sky in south Florida.
Dillon started his day from the 31st position when the green flag turned the field loose for the final time this year. A long green flag run ensued as the race got underway, delaying the day's first caution flag until the end of the opening stage on lap 80. Given that, Dillon and his GEICO Camaro ZL1 would need to make a scheduled green flag stop on lap 39. The Germain Racing pit crew quickly outfitted their driver with four fresh tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment before returning him to the racing surface. They were near flawless on pit road throughout the afternoon and evening, either gaining spots or allowing Dillon to hold his position as he hustled his way through 267-laps of racing.
When the second stage drew to a close on lap 160, crew chief, Matt Borland, opted to roll the dice when he instructed Dillon to stay out and take the wavearound rather than pit under the yellow flag. The decision would return the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 to the lead lap and also find high-fives and cheering among Germain Racing crew members as they celebrated Borland's gutsy decision.
When the green flag triggered the start of the final stage with just 100-laps to go, Dillon rolled from the 20th position and would need a quick caution flag in order to avoid pitting under green. The GEICO driver managed to hold off hard-charging cars with fresher tires and maintained his status in the top-20. Unfortunately, the much-needed yellow flag would not appear and Borland would call Dillon to pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 190. Undaunted, Dillon said, ""It was worth the try; a valiant effort." Indeed it was and Dillon responded by returning to the racing surface and dashing around the brightly lit racetrack in an attempt to regain lost ground.
Whatever was lost by the gamble at the start of stage 3 was mitigated by Dillon's efforts as he wheeled his GEICO Camaro ZL1 around the track gathering positions and recovering lost real estate. Perseverance and resilience were present in both driver and crew throughout the balance of the event and when the checkered flag flew below the Florida night sky, the group had recovered and Dillon delivered the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 across the finish line in 22nd place. It was the strong finish to the year that they desired and also accounted for six consecutive races where they turned in solid results.
"I appreciate all of the hard work that this Germain Racing team put in all year long to get our GEICO Camaro ZL1 to the track every week," Dillon said. "Our road crew leaves their families behind each weekend, and all of our guys put in countless hours at the shop. We didn't have the results this year that we wanted, but we had a lot of great racing moments and this team never gave up." He continued, "That hard work mentality isn't going to end just because the season is over. They will all be back in the shop tomorrow morning to start building our cars for the 2019 season. We're in this together, and there's nobody else that I wanted battling with me tonight in Homestead and come February for the Daytona 500."
The GEICO Racing team has already turned their attention to the 2019 season, but will also enjoy the upcoming holidays and time at home before packing their bags and kicking off the season in Daytona inside of 90-days from now.
The Daytona 500 is on Sunday, February 17, 2019.