When Ty Dillon finished twenty-first in the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series finale, he wrapped up a four-year run for Germain Racing. With Germain shutting down after the season, Dillon found himself without a ride in any of the NASCAR national series. While he was unable to land back in a full-time ride for the 2021 season, he will at least have a seat for the first race. On Tuesday, Gaunt Brothers Racing announced that Dillon will drive the #96 Toyota Camry for the season-opening Daytona 500. The news was initially reported by Motorsport.com’s Jim Utter last Friday, which also revealed that Dillon will run the following week’srave on the Daytona road course, though GBR’s Tuesday announcement only covered the 500.
“Gaunt Brothers Racing has given me a great opportunity to compete in the Daytona 500 and I couldn’t be happier,” Dillon stated. “I love superspeedway races and the Daytona 500 is the biggest of them all. Toyota has certainly proven itself in our sport and in the Daytona 500.”
The move to GBR and the #96 Camry, even if for just two races, marks a bit of a paradigm shift for Dillon. The younger brother of fellow Cup driver Austin Dillon, he has spent his entire NASCAR career as a Chevrolet driver and racing for either his grandfather’s team Richard Childress Racing or an RCR ally like Germain. After racing sporadically in the Cup Series from 2014 to 2016 as he primarily focused on the Xfinity Series, he moved up to the top level on a full-time basis in 2017 with Germain. He scored six top-ten finishes and two top fives with the team, including a best finish of third at the 2020 fall Talladega race. 2019 saw his best standings placement of twenty-fourth.
Dillon is also eligble to race in the exhibition Busch Clash as he won the opening stage in last October’s Charlotte Roval race.
For GBR, the team scales back to a part-time schedule after running the full calendar in 2020 with Daniel Suárez. Suárez concluded his lone season with the team with a thirty-first-place points finish and a best race finish of eighteenth on two occasions; he departed for the newly-formed Trackhouse Racing at year’s end. GBR, which began Cup racing in 2017, has also fielded the #96 for D.J. Kennington, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Parker Kligerman, Jesse Little, and Drew Herring. Kennington holds the team’s highest run in a race with a thirteenth at the 2017 Daytona July event.
“The best way to get a good start to your season is to have a good finish in the Daytona 500,” team owner Marty Gaunt commented. “We’ve got a talented driver in Ty Dillon with a strong TRD (Toyota Racing Development) engine plugged into the best equipment available.”