Coming off of two top-15 finishes in the first four races of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Germain Racing arrived in Fontana, CA, hoping to again find the speed they've exhibited since the start of the year. They unloaded their GEICO Camaro ZL1 on Friday and wheeled it confidently into the NASCAR Cup Series garage, where crew chief, Matt Borland, and company went to work preparing for practice and qualifying.
As the final weekend of NASCAR's annual west coast swing got underway, the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 was quick off of the truck. Dillon ended Friday's practice session 12th fastest on the speed chart, just ahead of Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer. Qualifying generated similar results when Dillon and the GEICO team advanced to the second round for the fourth consecutive week and collected a 16th place starting position in Sunday's race.
When the NASCAR Cup Series field took to the starting grid on Sunday, Dillon and Germain Racing were armed with a fast racecar for the impending 400-miles of racing. The No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 rolled off of pit road from the 16th position when the green flag turned the field loose for 200-laps of often four-wide racing action.
Just ten laps into the event, Dillon radioed to Borland, "We're got a great racecar here to start; it's really, really good." All was well as Dillon hurriedly made his way around the two-mile southern California facility, until a flat left-front tire presented itself with just under ten laps remaining in the opening stage. Under green flag conditions, Dillon was forced to deliver the GEICO Camaro ZL1 to the attention of his pit crew, who quickly outfitted him with fresh tires before returning him to the racing surface. The setback left him at a two-lap deficit to the field. This scenario is often easily overcome, but yellow flags were at a premium throughout the event.
Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 battled hard to gather lost real estate, but the lack of cautions only served to create a bigger challenge. Borland and his staff of engineers crafted a viable strategy for helping Dillon regain ground, but with little cooperation from the flag stand, their efforts would prove futile and they would instead be relegated to a 27th place finish.
"We had a really great GEICO Camaro ZL1 at the start of this race. It was handling the best it had all weekend," Dillon said after the 400-mile event. "My guys had found something that was going to work and keep our good finishes going, but the flat tire under green at the end of Stage 1 really hurt us. We had strategy plans to get our laps back if we could ever catch the cautions that we needed, but those just didn't happen. It's unfortunate that a tire ruined our day, but that's not going to get this team down. We are going to keep grinding and working hard to be ready for Martinsville next weekend."
Germain Racing will stay closer to home when they head to Martinsville, VA, next week for the series' first short-track event of the season.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Camaro ZL1 will hit the track at Martinsville Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Saturday, March 23rd, at 9:35 AM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 5:10 PM (ET).
The STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is on Sunday, March 24th, and it will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 2 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.