While Ty Dillon is a rookie in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he made this third Daytona 500 start today at the World Center of Racing. Coming off of a strong Can-Am Duel race on Thursday, where he finished 10th and collected a point for his efforts, the young gun pined for a memorable day at the season's biggest race.
When things got underway in the 59th Daytona 500, Dillon looked to pedal the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS to the front of the field. He began his journey from the 18th position, but effortlessly began collecting positions and would break into top-10 and run solidly in ninth place.
The GEICO driver was experiencing a productive day before Kyle Busch spun in front of him on lap 105, collecting a handful of cars and sending Dillon limping down pit road to the attention of his pit crew. The new NASCAR rule limiting teams with damaged cars to five-minutes for repairs sent the group scurrying. Once Dillon made it to pit road, the Germain Racing team would have just five-minutes to fix the car and then return their driver to the track and meet NASCAR's minimum speed requirements, or be forced to retire from the event. Crew chief Bootie Barker devised a plan and, despite heavy damage to the car, the pit crew executed it flawlessly, sending Dillon and his GEICO Chevy back onto the racing surface where he would continue to compete.
Business picked up and even though he was two-laps down to the field, in the 33rd position, Dillon hustled the No. 13 GEICO Chevy around the high-banked 2.5-mile superspeedway and stood his ground. On lap 128, the crafty rookie managed to evade almost certain peril by avoiding a large multi-car crash. The ensuing caution flag allowed him to regain a lap and gather up seven spots before restarting the race in the 26th position. He would now be a single yellow flag away from rejoining the lead lap and racing the leaders.
Unfortunately, Dillon's hopes would be dashed when yet another big crash occurred with just 58-laps remaining in the 200-lap race. Jamie McMurray made contact with the rear of Chase Elliott, causing a wreck involving a dozen cars and sending Dillon's GEICO Chevy hard into the wall. The heavy contact left the racecar with substantial damage and unable to continue in the race. Dillon would be relegated to a 30th place finish when he departed Daytona International Speedway.
"We got caught up in that first crash when Kyle (Busch) cut a right-rear (tire). Really had nowhere to go and Bootie (Barker, crew chief) and the guys worked really hard. I was so proud of our guys, we got it fixed," Dillon said after the race. "Just got a lap back and I probably should have been more patient there because we were the only car a lap down and should have waited for that crash and dodge another one, but sometimes you just can't here at Daytona. But, I was proud of my guys for how hard they worked. We just got caught up in it. Just a bummer because I felt like I had a fast-enough car to get back up there and have a good finish and capitalize on a day that went sour early. We had a fast GEICO Chevy, but unfortunately it didn't work out for us. I was really proud of my guys for working hard throughout the day to get the car back to where it is and they proved their toughness and we will move on to Atlanta and go race."
Race number two of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season takes the Germain Racing team to Atlanta, GA.
Ty Dillon and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, March 3rd, at 12:00 PM (ET). Qualifying will follow at 5:45 PM (ET).