With an up-and-down rookie season behind him, Ty Dillon heads into 2018 with a new crew chief and a sharper focus as he begins his second year at Germain Racing.
The 25-year-old grandson of Hall of Fame team owner Richard Childress is returning to the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet intent on improving his 24th-place finish in the final 2017 Monster Energy Series standings.
"The more we grow as a team, the more I grow as a driver," said Dillon, whose best finish in his 36 starts last year was 11th on two occasions - at Phoenix and Talladega. "I know I have the ability. It's just making sure I stay in my process, stay in my lane."
One of Dillon's most valuable assets this season will be veteran crew chief Matt Borland, who replaced Robert "Bootie" Barker the last week of November.
"Matt brings a varied skill set to our program," team owner Bob Germain Jr. said at the time. "With his engineering skills and veteran leadership, we're looking forward to continued improvements in our results as we move into the new season."
Indeed, Dillon progressed as the team navigated the 2017 schedule. There were stormy seas through much of the campaign but calmer waters as the season wound down.
"If you would have asked me three-quarters of the way through last year, I would have been negative and said, 'No. My career is not progressing the way I want,' " Dillon said recently during the annual pre-season media tour. "But I'm one of the best guys at being aggressive at the right time and in the right way. I was one of the hardest chargers every week whether we started 15th or 30th. And the last two races of the year opened my eyes to some things."
After missing a post-season playoff berth by eight spots, Dillon refused to concede the final 10 weeks of the year - during which he posted his two best finishes in Phoenix and Talladega. He also had a strong run at Kansas Speedway (16th) that helped him place third in the final Rookie of the Year standings behind Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez.
Dillon says he's steadily growing into his role as one of the sport's rising stars.
"I need to be more patient," he said. "When I'm not in the top 10, that affected me a lot. But at the end of last year, I let that go and focused on getting the racecar to do what I need it to do. When I do that, I know I can get the job done.