Ty Dillon comes to first Pocono Xfinity race with an advantage over some
When the NASCAR Xfinity tour returns to the Keystone State for the first time since 2004 for this weekend’s Pocono Green 250, expect Ty Dillon to have an advantage over his fellow series regulars.
Dillon can’t boast the same amount of track time as veteran Xfinity drivers Elliott Sadler or J.J. Yeley — and he certainly hasn’t logged as many laps as Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Paul Menard, who are doing the double at the Tricky Triangle.
But Dillon has raced — and won — at the 2.5-mile track. Dillon took the checkered flag in the 2011 ARCA race at Pocono Raceway, and he’s averaged a 13th-place finish in trucks.
Additionally, Dillon confirmed on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Wednesday that he’ll also return to Cup action this weekend behind the wheel of the No. 95 Chevy.
"I ran the Cup race there last year, that was a big help," said Dillon, who finished 18th in his Pocono Cup debut last June. "I'm excited to go back. It's one of my favorite tracks. I really enjoy the ‘Tricky Triangle’ because it's just that -- it is tricky. Going there with the Xfinity cars for the first time, everybody has a lot to learn. It’s going to be a good weekend.”
From Dillon’s first start at Pocono five years ago, he was amazed at the configuration of the track, which features three very distinctive turns. Dillon understands the necessity of finding a rhythm with each corner.
“I think one and three are equally important,” Dillon said. “I think they’re more important than the tunnel turn, but you want to put all three of them together and be good in all three of them. That’s usually who ends up winning the race. But I think everyone’s main focus is making sure they can get off of Turn 1 and get through Turn 3.
“Those are definitely some long straight-aways. It’s quite different than anywhere we go. The only thing that’s close is probably Indianapolis with the long flat straight-aways. It’s definitely different. I enjoy it — the uniqueness of three different turns. It’s like going to three different race tracks in one weekend. It’s pretty fun.”
To shift or not to shift
While it’s a matter of personal preference among drivers whether to shift through the turns, Dillon acknowledged that, “NASCAR really doesn’t want the Xfinity Series shifting” during the Pocono Green 250.
Still, if shifting provides Dillon with a competitive edge, it might be hard to resist the urge.
“I don’t think everybody knows quite yet,” Dillon said. “I think we expect we’ll be trying to shift…if it’s a better way to get around the track faster, you know we’ll be doing it. I think that’s a lot of what the test sessions are going to be — making sure we have the right gear package and working with NASCAR to make sure everybody has a good idea what gears are going to be ran.
“No one is really sure whether we’ll be shifting or not.”
NASCAR did a rear gear change, up from 50 to 60 points during Xfinity Series practice today.
Looking for a breakthrough win
Dillon is still looking for his first win in 2016. Although he won the inaugural NXS race at the Brickyard in 2014, the driver of the No. 3 Chevy has not visited Victory Lane since.
But with four top 10 finishes in his last five starts, Dillon, who is fourth in the Xfinity standings, believes the team is getting closer to a win.
“We have to build on our momentum like we had at Texas, Richmond and Dover,” Dillon said. “I felt we were taking big steps forward — right there on the verge of winning — then might have taken a half step back at Charlotte (eighth). We just have to refocus and figure out what we were doing right at those other places and put it all together.
“We have a new car going here to Pocono and I feel like we have a great shot at getting back to that winning mindset and running up front again. We have to look at Charlotte and see what we did different compared to weeks in the past and just get better from there.”
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Erik Jones led Thursday's two practice sessions at Pocono, while Dillon ended both sessions inside the top five (fourth and fifth).
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