|SHR to use Austin Dillon at Michigan|
|Tuesday, August 13, 2013 12:00 AM|
KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — Stewart-Haas Racing has tabbed Austin Dillon to drive Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet this week at Michigan International Speedway.
Stewart continues to recover from a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continues to field his No. 14 Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series. It will be Dillon’s 10th Sprint Cup start.
The 23-year-old Dillon, who won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title two years ago, competes this year in the Nationwide Series and holds the points lead.
Max Papis drove the No. 14 to a 15th-place finish Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
SHR has not determined who will drive the car at Bristol on Aug. 24.
No timetable has been established for Stewart’s return but the 3-time Sprint Cup champion was discharged from the hospital late Sunday afternoon and is at home.
“He’s doing well,” said Greg Zipadelli, competition director at SHR. “As far as when he’ll be back, I think we’ll know mid-week a little bit more on his schedule. He was doing as good as he could. We did talk about what we had for plans there and he was all on board and felt like we had made good choices. So that was important.”
When asked if Stewart might possibly get in the car for a lap or two at future races just to get the points and remain in the hunt for a spot in the Chase for the Championship, Zipadelli replied the team would leave that up to the medical experts. Stewart dropped from 11th to 17th in points after Sunday’s race.
“Honestly, if the doctor said we could do that, we’d probably do it,” Zipadelli explained. “We’re going to do everything that they say because we want him back a 100 percent. Sometimes you can do things sooner than you’re supposed to and make your healing process longer.
“So we’ll follow on with what the doctor says. If the doctor says in four weeks or six weeks he can do that, then we’ll probably look at those options and do what we can do.”
Zipadelli said SHR had heard from about 50 drivers who were interested in replacing Stewart until he’s well, including “people that I didn’t even know raced,” but noted SHR’s goal this weekend is to try and run all the laps.
“We need to finish the race,” he added. “Right now we’re still fighting for all the owner points we can get, so finishing these races is very important. I’m not saying it won’t change but right now, it’s no different than if Tony was in here. We’re not treating it any different.”
Earnhardt tries to shake off poor showing at Glen
CHICAGO — Winless for more than a year and with just two victories since 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr. predicted Monday that a Sprint Cup series triumph is right around the corner for him.
“We’re working real hard; it could come any weekend,” Earnhardt said. “We’re going to Michigan this weekend and feel like it’s a place we can succeed at. Obviously, it’s the place where we won our last two races at (2008 and 2012). We just anticipate it happening any week and go in every week with the attitude that we can be competitive and win the race and we’ve been pretty strong all season, so the confidence is high.”
Earnhardt finished a dismal 30th in Sunday’s road course race at Watkins Glen in upstate New York, one of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers who had bad outings. While points leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson finished eighth, Kasey Kahne wrecked late to finish 34th and 4-time series champion Jeff Gordon finished 36th.
“Yeah, yesterday was kind of tough,” Earnhardt said. “We had a good car and was real happy how the car ran. You can’t do much with the luck we had but we are looking pretty good as far as making the Chase and feel pretty confident that we’re going to be able to do that. We feel like we’ve got a good shot and we feel pretty confident.”
In the season standings, Earnhardt dropped one position to sixth, while Kahne and Gordon both dropped out of the top 10. Kahne is now 12th while Gordon is 13th.
The top 10 drivers in the standings after the race at Richmond on Sept. 7, plus the two highest-ranked wild card drivers will make up the 12-driver field for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
“I think they have a great chance,” Earnhardt explained of Kahne and Gordon still making the Chase. “They’re in great equipment, with good teams and have good speed. They just need a little luck. I think the cream always rises to the top and they’re definitely two of the top teams.”
Earnhardt was in Chicago to promote the Chase opener, Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway, about 50 miles southwest of Chicago in suburban Joliet. The fan favorite did a burnout on State Street in front of the Chicago Theatre downtown.
If he doesn’t win Sunday at Michigan or in the three subsequent pre-Chase qualifying races at Bristol, Atlanta or Richmond, Earnhardt hopes to win at Chicagoland, where he won in 2005 and has finished third and eighth in the last two races there.
“I’d love to win again to start the Chase off,” Earnhardt added. “Anyone who wins that race, that really propels them into a contender for the Chase and for the championship itself.”