MONROE — For nearly a decade Ty Dillon has traveled regularly to Snohomish County, where his wife Haley is from, and visited the Evergreen State Fairgrounds. On occasion he’s even headed to Evergreen Speedway, taking in a race from a spectator’s perspective rather than a driver’s.
This weekend Dillon finally gets his chance to experience the track from behind the wheel, and Summer Showdown finally has its first NASCAR Cup Series driver as a participant.
Summer Showdown, Evergreen Speedway’s premier event, takes place Friday and Saturday, and Dillon, who competes in stock car racing’s biggest series, is this year’s main attraction.
”To actually be able to race this weekend is so special,” Dillon said during Thursday’s Summer Showdown media day at the track.
Summer Showdown is back for its ninth edition after being canceled last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 200-lap main event for Super Late Models, which takes place on Evergreen’s 5/8-mile track, is set for Saturday evening, with qualifying taking place Friday afternoon.
And Dillon brings some star power to the proceedings. The 29-year-old from Mooresville, North Carolina, has eight seasons of NASCAR Cup Series experience, finishing 24th in the points standings in both 2017 and 2019. This year he’s split time on the Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series, most recently placing fifth at the Xfinity Series’ Credit Karma 250 on July 10 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He is the first Cup Series driver to compete at Summer Showdown since the race’s inception in 2012.
“We’ve been talking about this for the last couple years.” Evergreen Speedway president Doug Hobbs said about getting a Cup Series driver to Summer Showdown. “One of the main reasons we changed to this week is the Cup and Xfinity are off this time of the year for two weeks, and we knew our only chance would be to have it during their break. Ty was the first entry in 2020, but it didn’t happen. So to have Ty from the Cup series and Jesse (Little) from the Xfinity is pretty cool.”
Dillon was a natural fit for being that first Cup Series driver at Summer Showdown. His wife Haley is a graduate of Monroe High School, the couple spends ample time in the area, and they recently bought a house in Snohomish.
“We have so many family and friends that live around this area that don’t really get to go or travel to the bigger races, like the Cup races,” Dillon said. “So to come into the hometown, where we just have so many people that we love, and to be able to come out and be at the racetrack is super exciting. So this event is more than just winning a race or being a part of a race, it’s getting family together and doing something fun, so it’s pretty cool.”
Dillon, because of his status as a Cup Series driver, will be one of the favorites to win Saturday. However, he has factors working against him as well. He’s unfamiliar with the track — prior to Friday’s practice session his total experience on Evergreen’s big track was running about 10 laps Monday using Trenton Moriarity’s car. This is also Dillon’s first time racing a Super Late Model on asphalt — he’s raced Super Late Models on dirt — as the Cup Series uses the faster and heavier Generation 6 car.
And Dillon has plenty of competition. Not only does he have to contend with his own inexperience, he’ll also have to overcome a strong field that includes the likes of Little, four-time SRL Southwest Tour champion Derek Thorn, and 2016 Summer Showdown winner Tayler Riddle. And they’ll all be chasing Preston Peltier, who’s had a stranglehold on Summer Showdown as the three-time defending champion.
“I’ve never entered a race where I didn’t think I could win,” Dillon said. “I’ve never raced a Super Late Model, I’ve never been on this racetrack, I’ve never sat in this car before. But I still feel like I can give them a good run for their money. There are a lot of odds against me, but I’m here to win for sure. I’m here to have fun first, and then the next goal is to win.”
This year’s Summer Showdown has a new format. Friday night will see the Pro Late Models compete in a 125-lap race on Evergreen’s 5/8-mile track, with the winner taking home $15,000 and the top three finishers having the option to compete in Saturday’s Super Late Models race, where the winner takes home $25,000. If the same driver wins both races there’s a $40,000 bonus, so it’s possible for someone to come away with $80,000. … Between the Super Late Models and Pro Late Models there are 55 cars entered, with drivers hailing from nine states. Because of the closure of the U.S.-Canada border due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are no Canadian drivers taking part this year.