The new 2019 rules package had uncertainty abound as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrived in Hampton, GA, for this weekend's race. Ty Dillon and the GEICO Racing team had done their homework, but knew the true test would come when they took to the track. Crew chief Matt Borland's due diligence paid off and they were fast from the moment they unloaded the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 for practice on Friday.
Dillon and the GEICO machine were 12th and 15th in the respective practice sessions, placing any concern to rest. On Friday afternoon during qualifying, Dillon toured the 1.54-mile high-speed quad-oval in just 31.048-seconds, at a speed of 178.562-miles per hour. His effort was good for a 21st place starting position, just ahead of Hendrick Motorsports driver, Chase Elliott. Dillon's qualifying result was also seven positions better than a year ago.
Race day presented its own set of challenges. With wind gusts of up to 35-miles per hour, the impact could be significant, while the 21-year old racing surface and well-documented tire wear would have the attention of crew chiefs up and down pit road.
Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 rolled off of the starting grid from the 21st position on Sunday when the green flag turned the field loose for 325-laps of racing. The weather conditions varied drastically from those on Friday and Saturday, which would impact the teams as things got underway. The new rules package also played a role and NASCAR Cup Series crew chiefs all kept their pencils sharpened as they prepared to take notes and make changes to their racecars.
Dillon and his GEICO Camaro were at odds as he struggled with balance during the first half of the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. As the race wore on, Borland and the Germain Racing pit crew made beneficial changes that saw the No. 13 entry begin to pick up speed and post lap times comparable to the leaders. An excited Dillon radioed to Borland: "I'm pretty happy with the car. Good job, Matt."
When the checkered flag closed out 500-miles of racing, Dillon crossed the finish line in the 25th position, just behind Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and a host of other NASCAR superstars.
"This GEICO Racing team battled all day," Dillon said following 500-miles of racing. "We didn't fire off how we wanted to at the start. Our Camaro ZL1 was just too tight in traffic and would fall off from there. This team kept working through it and my crew chief made great changes, and my team had clean stops on pit road. We really had it handling how we needed it to by the middle of Stage 2. We were running similar lap times to the leaders at the end, and I was really happy with it. There is no doubt that our team learned a lot today with this new package. I'm proud of their hustle and that we kept improving throughout the race. Now we'll turn our focus to Las Vegas."
Germain Racing will now dance with Lady Luck as they head to Las Vegas, NV, for round three of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, March 1, at 3:05 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 7:40 PM (ET).
The Pennzoil 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 3rd, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 2:30 PM (ET). The Performance Racing Network (PRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.