Coming off of a strong run at Phoenix, Ty Dillon and the GEICO team looked to finish the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in strong fashion at the year’s final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It was an emotional weekend with Dillon and his wife, Haley, expecting their first child at any moment and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Danica Patrick making their final Cup Series starts before retiring. Baby Dillon would hold off on her arrival while daddy got to work for the final time during the 2017 season.
When Dillon and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS took to the track for practice on Friday, speed eluded them and the pair would end up 32nd and 30th in the day’s two sessions. They did not fare well later in the evening when qualifying rolled around, and Dillon would be relegated to a 32nd place starting position on Sunday.
Crew chief Bootie Barker and company huddled up before Saturday’s practice session and found the speed for which Dillon had been searching. The rookie hustled the GEICO Chevy around the 1.5-mile oval in just 32.560-seconds, at a speed of 165.848-miles per hour, placing him 22nd on the board when the year’s final practice session drew to a close. Barker proclaimed that the youngster would race well on Sunday and his statement would prove prophetic when, a day later, Dillon charged to the front in the GEICO Chevy.
For the fourth consecutive year, a sold-out crowd was on-hand for the season finale on Sunday. When the green flag turned the field loose for the final time in 2017, Dillon began his journey from the 32ndposition. He began battling a handling condition, while also finding himself three and four wide with fellow racers as action heated up early. Dillon steadily made progress, breaking into the top-20 and then mounting a charge that saw him surge up the leaderboard to third place by lap 43 before Barker ordered the GEICO Chevy to pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop.
Dillon had speed and the Germain Racing crew made quick work of the GEICO Chevy during each pit stop, which allowed the rookie to stay at the front throughout the event. As the race entered its final few laps, Dillon was in the 17th position and knocking on the door of the top-15.
Unfortunately, with just three laps remaining in the 267-lap race, Dillon would fall victim to a flat right rear tire that left him scrambling to get to pit road. The pit crew quickly outfitted the GEICO machine with fresh tires and returned Dillon to the race, where he would be forced to gather as many positions as possible before seeing the checkered flag. He was able to quickly collect a couple of spots and salvage a 26th place finish, sandwiched between Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in 25th and Jimmie Johnson in 27th.
“What a rookie year it’s been. I’ve learned so much about myself as a driver,” Dillon said. “Today wasn’t the ending to the year that we wanted. We had them there at the end and could’ve gotten ourselves a top-15 finish, but I just barely scrubbed the wall and cut the right-rear tire at the very end. I wish we could have shown everyone what we’re capable of one last time this season in the GEICO Chevrolet, but it was still a good run that we had going. I appreciate the hard work of this team all season long. We’ve had a lot of bright spots and some not so bright ones, but that’s our season and it’s one that we will build on for next year. We’re going to grind through the off-season and be ready in Daytona.”
Germain Racing will now turn their attention to next season as they begin prepping the new No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 for the 2018 Daytona 500. Chevrolet announced in August that they would be making the car design change from the Chevrolet SS beginning with the upcoming season.
The 2018 Daytona 500 is on Sunday, February 18th, and it will be televised live on FOX beginning at 2:30 PM (ET). The Motor Racing Network (MRN) will carry the live radio broadcast, along with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.
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