Prior to the 2019 season beginning, Germain Racing put a full court press on improving its Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series program. Four months in, Ty Dillon is delivering behind the wheel.
Dillon, 27, entered the Cup Series full-time in 2017. But his first two seasons didn’t go as planned, finishing 24th and 27th in the championship standings, respectively.
Through the opening 15 races of the season in which Germain Racing relocated its race shop to Welcome, North Carolina, site of Richard Childress Racing, Dillon sits 23rd in points, with a pair of stage victories at Bristol Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Compared to the past two years, it’s been a world of difference.
“I would say we’re right at a B or B+,” Dillon recently graded his team to Frontstretch. “As a team, we’ve done a great job. We’re doing a good job of executing on all types of tracks. I think the mile-and-a-halves and the speedway races have been where we’re trying to catch up a little bit. We’ve been running on average around 18th-25th and we want to break out of that.
“We feel like we can go to the short tracks and superspeedways and run inside the top 10 when we put it all together, so we’ve just got to get our speedway program there.”
Dillon has a best finish of sixth this year, coming in the season-opening Daytona 500. His only other top-10 finish in the Cup Series is another sixth, also at Daytona last July. The No. 13 team has an average finish of 20.7, matching its finishing position from 2017. Its four top-15 finishes equals the teams amount through the opening 31 races last year.
The solid results this year has led to a skyrocket in confidence for Dillon.
“On and off the track I’m a lot more confident,” he added. “I think I’ve just realized that I’m really lucky to do what I do, but the results have nothing to do with the meaning of why I’m here. It’s given me a lot more peace week in and week out. I feel a lot more refreshed at this point of the year mentally than I’ve ever been.
“The sport no longer has a hold on me like it used to. I think just having that perspective has helped me a whole lot.”
It’s almost been a decade since Dillon was introduced to the national racing scene. He spent 2012 and 2013 chasing a Gander Outdoor Truck Series championship, though never accomplishing it. The next three years were spent primarily in the Xfinity Series, winning one race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his rookie campaign.
Ultimately, Dillon took losing personally, and still did the past couple of years at the Cup level.
“I let my finishes and everything around the sport define me when it has nothing to do with who I am,” Dillon stated. “When you’re young, you think that you’ve got to do everything as far as the sport to get to where you can win races. Do everything that the sport wants you to do and be exactly what the sport says you’re supposed to be. That can destroy you.
“You see a lot of young drivers dealing with it all the time. It can get you down and I feel like I’ve broken out of that and realized this sport is awesome, but it is just a small anthill in a big world. I have a lot of fun at what I’m doing, but I think the fact that I can walk away and go play with my daughter [Oakley] and have fun with my wife [Haley] helps me be a better racecar driver.”
Admittedly so, Dillon’s first two seasons in Cup were tough. Between the two years, there were only 33 races [in 72 starts] in which the No. 13 finished on the lead lap, posting just five top-20 finishes last year. That weighed heavily on the North Carolina native.
But hindsight is always 20-20. Such is the case for Dillon over his first two Cup seasons.
“If I were to go back and do it now with who I am, I would be able to do it a whole lot better,” Dillon said. “Being young, I let it be hard on me mentally. I let it destroy me. There were a lot of nights of crying on my wife’s lap where it was destroying me and I didn’t love it. I was having fun in the moment, but I let the results kill me.
“It’s not about that and I think it makes me a better driver when you don’t have that type of attitude, when you’re not living and dying by your result. You’re giving everything you have and letting it go when you leave the track.”
Dillon confirmed he never saw a sports psychologist, but did form a relationship with God which “changed my life.”
Heading into this weekends race at Sonoma Raceway, Dillon is surrounded by his RCR affiliates in points. His brother, Austin Dillon, who won his first-career stage in the series’ last race at Michigan International Speedway, sits 21st in the championship standings, only 41 markers ahead of the No. 13 team. Daniel Hemric, the rookie at the company, is 31 points behind the younger Dillon brother, ranked 24th in points.
Being able to compete, and oftentimes outrun his RCR teammates makes Dillon feel good about the direction Germain Racing is heading.
Dillon said: “It’s my third year, and I’ve learned how important consistency and growing, not overdoing it at times early in a race, being there at the end of the race, pays off. I think you just learn and that’s what makes a championship team after a while.”