On ‘back burner’ of rookie class, Ty Dillon aims to leave doubters ‘surprised’ in Cup Series
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Ty Dillon’s biggest dream came true last November.
At the age of 24, he was finally going full-time racing in the NASCAR’s premier series.
When all the paperwork was done, Dillon was overwhelmed when he called his wife, Haley, with the news he would replace Casey Mears in Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet.
“I remember driving down the road and first called my wife and told her it was a done deal and just started bawling on the phone,” Dillon said last week at the NASCAR Media Tour. “And I called my mom and bawled.”
The grandson of Richard Childress, Dillon will make his debut with the team in the Daytona 500, the day before his 25th birthday. It will be his second start in the “Great American Race.”
“I love this sport, and just to have the chance to be one of the top drivers and chase my dream,” Dillon said. “I know you say I’ve made it, which is obviously a big moment for me in my life, but I still have a lot to accomplish. My grandfather said the other night that he feels like he still hasn’t made it, and that’s how I kind of feel. I’m not going to be satisfied until I win races and championships.”
It’s been such a busy offseason, you may have missed Dillon’s promotion. Erik Jones, the 2015 Truck Series champion and 2014 Xfinity Rookie of the Year, will pilot the No. 77 for Furniture Row Racing.
Daniel Suarez, the defending Xfinity champion and first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title, got the unexpected promotion to replace Carl Edwards in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 car.
Between all that, Monster Energy becoming the Cup Series’ new sponsor and NASCAR’s race and points format overhaul, even Dillon believes his presence in the 2017 rookie class - which will also include Gray Gaulding - is being overlooked.
“I kind of feel people put us on the back burner – me and Germain Racing – and I think they’ll be surprised,” said Dillon, who’s made 18 Cup Series starts since 2014. His best finish last year was 17th at Atlanta.
But in his 111 Xfinity starts dating back to 2012, Dillon has only visited victory lane once, in the 2014 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He has 29 top fives driving Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 Camaro while finishing in the top two seven times.
In that same four-year span, his brother Austin Dillon won eight races in 106 starts, six of them coming as a part-time driver the last two seasons. He also claimed 53 top fives.
Jones won six times in 56 starts the last two seasons while Suarez won three times in 2016 on the way to his title. Ty Dillon finished fifth in the standings after failing to advance to the championship race in Miami.
Given all that, what makes him confident he’s ready for the full-time challenges of the Cup Series stage at this point in his career?
“In my heart I feel like I’m the best driver,” Dillon said. “If I didn’t have that kind of confidence, I wouldn’t be driving a race car. I knew I was ready for this opportunity and I’ve proved in different situations. The wins weren’t what we wanted in the Xfinity Series the past couple of years, but we were growing as a team and changing as a team at RCR. We will win Xfinity races this year; I can guarantee you that.”
Dillon will compete in 20 of 33 Xfinity races this season while navigating his rookie Cup season. His efforts with Germain Racing will be aided by a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
“I feel it’s going to be the best of both worlds for me,” Dillon said. “We’ll still have that multi-car feel but also be able to separate ourselves and be Germain Racing ... so it will be nice to have a little bit of our own identity and me to have my own identity, too. I just think it will help the growth of both programs – myself and the team.”