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Experience, sponsorship land Dillon No. 14 at MIS

August 12, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com

Austin Dillon, who won at Tony Stewart's Eldora Speedway last month, will step in for an injured Stewart this weekend

Experience and sponsorship landed Austin Dillon in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

With three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart sidelined indefinitely with a broken right leg, SHR officials selected Dillon because he has competed in seven events at the 2-mile track, and because his Richard Childress Racing team has strong ties to and funding from sponsor Bass Pro Shops.

Stewart also has sponsorship from Bass Pro and a solid relationship with company founder Johnny Morris.

In addition to competing in the Pure Michigan 400 (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN) at MIS, Dillon, the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader will also travel to Lexington, Ohio to compete in this weekend’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN).

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“We went down through the list, saw who was available, saw who had track time, who was doing double-duty and who was willing to try to work out a schedule that would work for both sides,” Greg Zipadelli, competition director for SHR, said Monday.

“(Austin) has a strong relationship with Bass Pro Shops and … a big part of how we go through this is going to be making sure that our partners are happy with what we’re doing, as far as who we’re putting in the car and will represent their brands in the way they want it represented.

“Austin did a great job in the past at Michigan and we just thought it was a good fit for us.”

The 2011 champion in the Camping World Truck Series, Dillon has nine career starts in Cup -- including two at MIS. He finished 11th in his most recent start there in June of this year. He also has three Nationwide and two NCWTS starts at MIS.

The wide, fast oval is “one of my favorite tracks,” Dillon, 23, said. “We led all the laps in the Nationwide race there this year until we had the left rear flat and ran well in the Cup race. So I’m really looking forward to it.

“I think it's a place that we can really go out and have a good run at this weekend.”

Max Papis finished 15th at Watkins Glen this past weekend for the SHR team. Stewart, who saw a string of 521 consecutive starts in Cup end, lost seven points positions, falling from 11th to 17th.

Zipadelli left the door open for more possible driver moves as the organization awaits word on how long the co-owner/driver will be on the sidelines. Approximately 50 people contacted the team, some that Zipadelli admitted, “I didn’t even know raced.

“And we appreciate everybody reaching out and willing to help,” he said. “But it's been interesting, let's leave it at that.”

For now, he said, “It's going to be a weekly occurrence here for a little while. We'll evaluate each race as it comes and do the best job we can with putting someone in it we feel will do a good job for Stewart‑Haas and all of our partners.

“We will probably know more next week. Tony has a doctor's appointment Wednesday … to just kind of go over things, and at that point we'll have a lot better idea of what we're doing. But for right now it will probably be a week‑by‑week decision as far as who is in the car.”

Could a good result from Dillon open the door for future races while Stewart is on the mend?

“Absolutely. We're (also) talking about other races,” Zipadelli said. “We just kind of want to get through this week here and then plan ahead.

“Like I said, things are a little slow. We've got a little bit more time this week. We'll be able to plan weeks out here once we get this Michigan stuff done. Last week was kind of a short week, and we just really focused and concentrated on Watkins Glen and doing the best we could there.”

 

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