By Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
Editor’s note: Motorsports Tribune will be previewing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season for the top-30 drivers in the series leading into next month’s 60th running of the Daytona 500.
Years in Cup: 1
Career Wins: 0
As with any rookie campaign at the top-level of NASCAR, the 2017 season was a learning experience for Ty Dillon. While Dillon failed to record a top-10 result, he recorded eight top-15 finishes and was really encouraged by the season’s last two races. The 25-year-old tied his career-best of 11th at Phoenix and had another top-15 run going in the finale at Homestead-Miami before a slight brush with the wall caused a flat right-rear tire with three laps remaining and resulted in a 26th-place result.
“The last two races of the year really opened my eyes to some things and some processes,” Dillon said on Wednesday during his media availability as part of the pre-season Charlotte Media Tour.
“Our cars are going to get better and I know some things that I’m going to do better that are going to be better than last year. I’m excited for the growth of this year, and now I feel like I’m finally getting a grasp on what it takes to have an opportunity at the top level.”
Dillon’s No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet will feature the same base colors of blue and green, but will have a different scheme to showcase the lines of the new Camaro ZL1 body style as the manufacturer made the car design change from the Chevrolet SS during the off-season. Also new for Dillon will be the man calling the shots from the pit box in 2018.
Matt Borland signed a multi-year agreement with Germain Racing during the off-season to serve as the crew chief for Dillon, replacing Robert “Bootie” Barker. Borland has 13 victories at the Cup level, all coming with Ryan Newman, and most recently served as crew chief for Paul Menard.
“Matt Borland brings a varied skill set to our No. 13 program. With his engineering skills and veteran leadership, we are looking forward to continued improvements in our team results as we move into the new season and beyond,” said team owner Bob Germain Jr. in the release announcing Borland’s signing.
Borland will utilize his veteran leadership to guide the young Dillon through his second full-time season of Cup competition. Dillon’s biggest off-season change though didn’t relate to the race track. Ty and wife Haley welcomed their first child, Oakley, in November.
“Having my little girl in the off-season helped put some things in perspective in my life and I have been trying to change my approach on some things. I let the sport get me a little down, which sounds ridiculous in your rookie season,” said Dillon, who went to victory lane during his rookie campaigns in both the Truck and XFINITY Series.
“I feel relieved that at the end of my rookie season I really learned some things that are going to help me this year.”
Dillon noted that he needs to improve his patience heading into his second full-time season.
“I get pissed when I’m not in the top-10 and that affected me a lot this past season. The last couple of races I just let that go, and in practice let that emotion go, and just focused on getting the race car to do what I needed it to do and that’s go win races. When I put all my focus on just getting that race car driving right, I know I can get the job done. It took me the final two races to realize what I needed to do. Going into this next year that’s going to help me for sure.”
Fans will have an opportunity to get to know Dillon more from a behind-the-scenes perspective as he’s going to video blog his whole year. Dillon has been putting up some videos and getting a lot of great responses from fans, so he’s hired somebody who is going to the majority of events with him.
“I have such a platform and I don’t think a lot of people realize what we have. I’m not the top of the top of the sport right now, but I do have 150,000 followers on Twitter and have almost 50,000 on Instagram and that’s such a great platform to start exploding off of.
“I think something that has bothered me about our sport in the ‘90s and 2000s everybody said they could relate so well to Dale Earnhardt. That’s why they loved him. He’s obviously the top level of fandom in our sport. He did such a great job of making people feel they are just like Dale Earnhardt even though he’s a race car driver. I feel like I can do that. I just have to give them a better platform, so I’m going to do that and it’s the fans’ opportunity this year to get to know me.”