DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ty Dillon acknowledged Tuesday that he's had discussions about potentially taking a substitute driving role with Stewart-Haas Racing, filling in for Tony Stewart as the three-time NASCAR champion recovers from a severe back injury.
"Obviously that's something that's been talked about a lot," Dillon said. "Nothing has been finalized. Unfortunately, it kind of stinks that we're even talking about that this year."
Dillon, who is locked into the Daytona 500 field with Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing's No. 95 entry, could take the wheel of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet in the second Sprint Cup Series race of the season -- at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dillon said no contract has been signed, but that he hoped to have news to report "sooner or later."
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Negotiations have been positive, Dillon said, adding that he's honored to have his name mentioned as Stewart's interim replacement.
"For my name to be thrown out there and pretty soon and pretty quick was an honor for me, especially to fill in in such a legendary seat," Dillon said as he made the NASCAR Media Day rounds. "It's Tony Stewart’s ride, a guy that I looked up to as a kid and watching. He's a dirt race hero and I'm a dirt-race guy. For Stewart-Haas Racing to have interest in me to begin with is an honor.
"If we get everything done and I'm in the car at Atlanta, it would be great, but I'm not going to jump the gun and say it's a done deal. It would be an honor to me is all I will say."
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Dillon is expected to compete part-time in the Sprint Cup Series with the Bob Leavine-owned team, which will run the full schedule, fielding the No. 95 for Michael McDowell in at least 26 races. Dillon has made seven career starts in NASCAR's top division and will run a full season in the XFINITY Series for Richard Childress Racing.
Stewart, scheduled to run his final season in NASCAR's premier series in 2016, is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a burst fracture in his back in an all-terrain vehicle accident Jan. 31.
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Regan Smith, who had filled in for Stewart in 2014 after a sprint-car accident, said Tuesday that his name wasn't in the pool of possible replacements. Smith, who had taken on the role of Sprint Cup super-sub during his XFINITY Series tenure, returns to the Sprint Cup Series full-time this season with Tommy Baldwin Racing.
"I honestly didn't give it two thoughts," said Smith, who took over TBR's No. 7 seat last month. "When I saw he was out, my first thought was that sucks for Tony. Going into his last year, I felt bad for Tony. Still some of the details are a little shaky, but long story short, he broke his back and you don't want to wish that on anybody. …
"I'm in a full-time ride and an opportunity with a team that is growing from the ground up and has a Charter nonetheless to race every week. Tony's deal might be five weeks, it might be 25 weeks. I don't think anybody really knows."