When Ty Dillon arrived in Daytona with his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 for the opening race of the season, he not only desired a strong finish, he also aimed to escape the tag of 'young gun'. 2019 marks the beginning of his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his solid run and crafty driving on Sunday all but solidified his status as a seasoned veteran. Dillon departed the 61st running of the Daytona 500 with a sixth-place finish and was the highest finishing Chevrolet, holding off Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece and Jimmie Johnson during a charge to the checkered flag.
Dillon and Germain Racing settled in quickly when Speedweeks kicked off a week ago. The GEICO Camaro ZL1 posted top-5 practice times in three of the five practice sessions, along with a top-10 finish in Thursday's Duel 150's, where the team collected a playoff point.
When the green flag signaled the start of the Daytona 500 in front of a sold-out crowd on Sunday afternoon, Dillon rolled off of the starting grid from the 22nd position. His strategy was to exercise caution through the first two and half stages of the race so that the No. 13 GEICO machine would be in position to make a move as the race wound down. Crew Chief, Matt Borland, was confident in his car and team and knew if Dillon could survive until the final laps that the GEICO car would have a chance to make a run at the end.
Borland's intuition was correct and Dillon would find himself in the top-10 multiple times over the course of the event, an indication that the car was strong enough to charge to the front when called upon. As the race neared its end, Dillon and his GEICO Camaro ZL1 hooked up with Joey Logano with 20 to go and went from the 23rd position to 11th in a single lap.
On lap 188 of a scheduled 200, Dillon was running in the 11th position when a spin occurred in back of him, bringing out the yellow flag. Borland ordered the GEICO Camaro ZL1 to pit road where he opted to provide Dillon with four fresh tires, rather than only two, knowing the power in Dillon's car would enable him to easily charge back to the front with all fresh rubber. With just 10-laps remaining in the advertised distance, Dillon restarted back in the 25th position when the race returned to green.
Just a few laps later, the 'big one' would occur, leaving race cars blanketed across the race track. With the help of spotter, Billy O'Dea, Dillon masterfully navigated the crash and, after receiving contact from the side, being turned sideways and then carefully driving through the grass, he was back on the racing surface with only minor damage to his GEICO Camaro. The move was impressive and garnered the attention of media members and everyone along pit road.
The green flag restarted the race with just six laps remaining. Dillon took off from the seventh position and would again exercise his cat-like reflexes when cars got together immediately in front of him. He made a quick righthand turn and then a left and continued through the incident without contact. The race headed into overtime, where a two-lap dash to the checkered flag would determine its outcome. Dillon took the green flag and remained heavy on the gas, holding off a hard-charging Kyle Larson, Ryan Preece and Jimmie Johnson for the final five-miles of the race to score a sixth place finish in the Daytona 500.
"It feels good. I'm just really proud of our effort," Dillon said after exiting his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 on pit road after the race. "God is good. It wasn't really me driving this thing. I would leave it up to Him to get me through those wrecks and boy that was fun. I had a blast tonight. What a great way to start our year with our GEICO Camaro. I'm really proud to be the top finishing Chevy at the very first race of the year and that's a great way to set the tone. My GEICO guys are amazing and this is going to be a good year for us and we're proud of what we're doing."
Germain Racing will now carry their momentum to Atlanta, GA, for the second race of the 2019 NASCAR 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 22nd, at 11:35 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 5:10 PM (ET).
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, February 24th, 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.