When round four of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season led Germain Racing and Ty Dillon to Phoenix, AZ, they appeared with full confidence as they unloaded their No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 for practice on Friday. The team has made demonstrated improvement in qualifying and speed over a year ago and they planned to continue the trend at ISM Raceway.
While last year featured its challenges for not only Germain Racing, but also the Chevrolet camp as a whole, Ty Dillon appears to have placed his sophomore season comfortably in the past and now carries himself with the sureness of a seasoned veteran. For the third time in as many weeks, he and his No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 advanced to the second round of qualifying, where he made quick work of the newly configured facility. Dillon pedaled around the one-mile oval in just 26.005-seconds, at a speed of 138.435-miles per hour, landing him 20th on Sunday's TicketGuardian 500 starting grid, an eight-position improvement from a year ago.
When the green flag flew on Sunday amid bright sunshine, perfect temperatures and grandstands filled with passionate race fans, Dillon and his GEICO Camaro ZL1 took off from the 20th position. With 312-laps of racing on tap, Dillon began a measured journey up the scoring tower.
In an event where close-quarters racing often found the NASCAR Cup Series field a harrowing five-wide, Dillon managed to keep his No. 13 GEICO machine clean thanks to his well-documented cat-like reflexes and assistance from spotter, Billy O'Dea. The Germain Racing pit crew executed flawlessly during pit stops throughout the race, while crew chief, Matt Borland, and his corps of engineers made strategy calls with near perfection as the race played out.
Dillon remained inside the top-20 during the race and spent most of the final 180-laps vacillating between the 15th and 18th positions, taking over 15th place for the final time with around 80-laps remaining in the advertised distance. The speed of the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 was evident and Dillon would not surrender an inch, charging around the track with a resolute tone in his voice as offered updates on the car.
Even as tires began to wear, Dillon did not, and when the checkered flag brought the hair-raising racing action to a halt after the prescribed distance, he delivered the GEICO Camaro ZL1 across the finish line in the 15th position, just behind Hendrick Motorsports', Chase Elliott, and ahead of a host of NASCAR's elite. The result is 15 positions better than the 2018 spring Phoenix race and also accounts for Germain Racing's second top-15 finish in the first four races of the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series season.
"Today was a great day for our GEICO Racing team," Dillon said after climbing from his GEICO Camaro ZL1 on pit road. "We consistently ran inside the top-20, kept making adjustments to fine tune the handling, and then got ourselves in a position to run inside the top-15. I know this is what our Germain Racing team can do every single week and I'm proud of all the hard work that is going into building faster race cars. We will keep building on top-15 finishes like this and I know good things will continue to happen for our team."
The final race of NASCAR's annual spring visit to the west coast leads Germain Racing to Fontana, CA, for race number five of 36 of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Auto Club Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, March 15th, at 1:05 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 5:40 PM (ET).
The Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 17th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 3:30 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.