Motorsports Insider: Austin Dillon gets latest turn in Stewart’s Cup car

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series Updates Sprint Cup Chase clincher: Jimmie Johnson is in, clinching a spot in the Chase last week. Anybody who is 145 points ahead of 11th place after this weekend also clinches. Two candidates: Clint Bowyer, 110 ahead, and Carl Edwards, 105 ahead. Top-five Kyle: Kyle Busch is back in the top five in points after winning last week. It’s the highest he’s been since he was No. 2 after his win at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Nationwide Series First time: The series makes its debut at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn course is the third and final road course of the season for the Nationwide drivers. Local advantage: Ohio native Sam Hornish Jr. is the only driver in the top 10 who has run a national series race at Mid-Ohio. He was 14th in an IndyCar Series race in 2007. Camping World Truck Lone Michigan winner: Brendan Gaughan is the only driver entered this week at Michigan who has won before at Michigan. He won there in 2003. Cuppers entered: Kyle Busch and Joey Logano are entered in Saturday’s race. Busch will try to make Michigan the ninth track where he has won in a Cup and Nationwide car and a truck. IndyCar Multiple winners: Nine drivers have won a race this season. The most for a season in IndyCar is 11, in both 2000 and 2001. Yet to win this year: Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Briscoe, Ed Carpenter. Barracuda ride: J.R. Hildebrand will drive the No. 98 on Aug. 25 at Sonoma and at Auto Club on Oct. 19, and Luca Filippi will be in the seat at Baltimore on Sept. 1 and at the Houston doubleheader Oct. 5-6. 13 Wins for Jack Roush as an owner at Michigan International Speedway, most recently by Greg Biffle in June. They said it “I would rather have a win or two and be a wild card than finish seventh or eighth and squeak my way in without any wins, because the momentum of a win and the confidence-builder it instills in yourself and the fear that it puts in your competition is more than worth it.” — Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski

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Austin Dillon has proven himself a contender in the Nationwide Series.

He was third last year and is leading this year.

But he’s getting a big acknowledgment of his ability now.

Stewart-Haas Racing is putting him in the seat of Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet for this week’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.

Dillon has been good at Michigan before. In fact, his 11th-place finish in June is the best finish of his nine Cup races.

SHR is just trying to hire the best replacement drivers that it can out of a limited pool on a week-to-week basis.

But it still says something about the budding talent of the 23-year-old driver.

“If you look at his record in the Truck Series and the job he’s done in the Nationwide, that’s kind of what we’re basing it off of,” SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said. “He runs good at Michigan. He’s got a good record there. He’s young, and you know, ready to rock and roll there. We’re ready to see what we can accomplish this weekend.”

It will be a tricky weekend, actually.

Dillon is also trying to protect his points lead in the Nationwide Series, which is running its debut race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Race Course. It’s not far from there to Michigan for the Sprint Cup race, but it means travel time between both places for Dillon and practice on completely different styles of tracks.

It might have an effect on his Nationwide race, but Dillon could not let the chance go by to drive the No. 14 Cup car.

“We’re going to win the Nationwide Series; that is our main goal,” Dillon said. “We’ve been fighting for it all year long. This week at Mid-Ohio, we’ve had a lot of practice time. The good thing about a road course is the strategies that you’ll be using could actually help us out with the start. It obviously helps to start up front any race you’re at. But we’ll have a plan.

“If there was a better place to do it in the Cup race, Michigan is the place for me because I have a lot of laps there and confidence there. So we’re going to do our best to come up with a good strategy for both races. I think we’ll be just fine.”

This is a ride a lot of people want. SHR, with its technology agreement with Hendrick Motorsports, gets top equipment. So a lot of guys have called.

How many?

“I would say it was more in the 50 range,” Zipadelli said. “There’s been people that I didn’t even know raced called. And we appreciate everybody reaching out and willing to help.

“But it’s been interesting. Let’s leave it at that.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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