August 14, 2013

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

The 23-year-old driver’s ability is recognized by Tony Stewart’s team, but Austin Dillon’s focus is on the Nationwide title.

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.”

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