RELATED: Germain Racing 2018 preview
Ty Dillon is feeling content on an island — but he’s not stuck in the sand on this one.
The island is Germain Racing, which houses Dillon’s No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet, while the mainland is Germain’s allied team of Richard Childress Racing.
To Dillon, being on an island doesn’t mean isolation; it means a chance to do something unexpectedly great, like reigning champion Martin Truex Jr. did with Furniture Row Racing. In 2014, Furniture Row led a lone lap with Truex and collected zero wins. Last season — just three years later — he earned eight wins and a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title with the same Denver, Colorado-based team.
That improvement is inspirational for Dillon.
“I think the island’s a good place to be,” Dillon said at the 2018 NASCAR Media Tour presented by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “You look at Furniture Row and that’s the gold standard right now for teams like ours. We’ve got to do it in our own way and use our resources the right way, but I think that’s kind of the approach that we’re taking …
“Somebody’s done it as a small team that uses technical alliances and can win a championship. We can do that. The opportunity is there; now it’s about us making the most of it. And I think that’s what we’re going to do and I think you kind of embrace that island-y feel and go to work with it.”
This marks Dillon’s second season with single-car Germain Racing, a team that he plans to stick with despite his deep roots with Richard Childress Racing (his grandfather is team owner Richard Childress while his older brother is driver Austin Dillon). While he started out at Richard Childress in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2012, the 25-year-old driver prefers the new path that he’s carved for himself now that he’s reached the sport’s top level.
“I think there was something inside of me that wanted to break out of that a little bit,” Dillon said. “As much as I love having … my family in the sport and my grandfather is an owner and how much I would love to win races and championships for him, I think I needed to break out of that grandson-brother shadow that I had. … There are a lot of things my brother and I can do that are great and I still want to work with my grandfather. But I want people to know me … and who I am.
“I want to race for Germain Racing and GEICO my whole career and win races and championships and build my own brand like Kobe Bryant and the (Los Angeles) Lakers.”
That brand starts with openness off the track; in the early months of 2018, Dillon has taken action to improve and increase his communication with fans.
He will video blog his entire year and hired someone to attend 36 events — both races and other happenings — with him throughout the season to capture behind-the-scenes content.
“I have such a platform and I don’t think a lot of people realize what we have,” Dillon said. “… 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. Everybody could relate to him so well and 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.”
On the race track, Dillon also looks to improve after one year in the Monster Energy Series. He finished 24th in the standings last season, leading 40 laps. He wasn’t able to secure any top-10 finishes, but he did improve from his qualifying position in 27 of his 36 finishes.
The final two races in particular, Dillon saw improvements in his performance; he finished a season-best 11th at Phoenix and was running 13th at Miami before he was lumbered with a flat tire in the final laps.
“I think our goal is to more or less, run more consistently – inside the top 15, top 10 – and I think that’s a very achievable goal,” Dillon said. “We do that, we’re going to get more opportunities. I feel like we did a great job … getting great finishes on days when we ran 25th all day. We would turn those days into 18th, 17th-place finishes.
“You do that running 15th, you’re going to have chances to win. You do that running 10th, you’re definitely going to have chances to win.”
But one of the biggest lessons his rookie season taught him wasn’t a complicated racing maneuver or trick to saving fuel. It was patience.
“I get pissed when I’m not in the top 10 or first every time and that affected me a lot this previous year,” Dillon said. “The last couple of races I just let that go and let that emotion in practice go and just mainly focus on the process of getting the race car driving the way I need it to drive to be able to do what I’m confident in myself to do and that’s go win races.”
Aiding in life lessons was the newest addition to the Dillon family; he and wife Haley welcomed their first child together — a baby girl named Oakley — on Nov. 21, 2017.
“Having my little girl in the offseason helped put some things in perspective in my life,” Dillon said, a smile brightening his face when the conversation turns to his daughter. “… I let the sport get me a little down, which sounds ridiculous in your rookie season because I never really struggled in any of my previous rookies seasons. … I hope to take what I’ve learned from being her father for two months and kind of adapt it to every aspect of my life and the appreciation for what I have and what I am and who I am.”
Perspective comes into play both on and off the track; during his press conference, Dillon looked across the room at Ryan Blaney, who was also holding his own media availability.
The crowd around Blaney was noticeably larger.
“Having everybody over there (with Blaney) and me being over here, I love that,” Dillon said, who stressed the importance of “loving a loss.”
“Because this whole year, I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I have that crowd. I think last year, that would just make me mad and I would just stew on it all day and not really make anything out of it.
“But (now) I think it’s a great opportunity. I know what I have to offer.”