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Ty Dillon to qualify for Tony Stewart at Talladega

Ty Dillon said Wednesday that he plans to qualify Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 14 Chevrolet as part of his relief efforts for owner/driver Tony Stewart this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

Dillon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he's discussed a preliminary game plan with No. 14 crew chief Mike Bugarewicz to split time in the cockpit with Stewart, who made his season debut last Sunday at Richmond after missing the first eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races of 2016 with a broken back.

"Sounds like Tony's got to get in and make some practice laps to make it official and then I'll get in and run some practice and not sure if we're going to draft or what," Dillon told SiriusXM. "I'll qualify the car and Tony will start the race and it sounds like he'll run to maybe the first caution, but you never know with Tony. He might like his race car and want to stay out there.


"But I think he'll probably run to the first caution, we'll try and make the swap as quick as possible, hopefully not lose a lap, and we'll go to racing and hopefully win the race for Tony and hopefully get him that win he needs."


Stewart, a three-time premier series champion, announced his comeback from injury last Thursday, finishing 19th three days later in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond. In plotting what he called a "strategic approach" for this return, Stewart said he planned to start Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) but give way to relief driver Dillon during the Talladega race, noting his desire to avoid extended racing at the 2.66-mile track, where the potential for large, high-speed crashes is much greater.


Stewart has a chance to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs in his final season, thanks to a medical exemption granted by the sanctioning body. The waiver allows for Chase eligibility provided all other criteria are met -- foremost winning a race and placing among the top 30 in the drivers' standings.


By NASCAR rules, Stewart would accrue championship points or a potential victory as the driver of record by starting the race -- regardless of what percentage of laps Dillon completes.


"The cool thing is, it'd mean I won a Sprint Cup race, so that would be awesome, too," Dillon said. "In general, if that happens, we're going to have a great time and everybody's going to be happy. But there hasn't been a race in my life where I haven't gone out and the goal's not been to win the race. I'm going to do everything as usual and get the best finish possible for Tony and if it ends up being a win, we're going to have a heck of a party."


Dillon, 24, divided interim driver duties in the No. 14 Chevrolet with Brian Vickers as Stewart recovered from the injuries he suffered Jan. 31 in an all-terrain vehicle crash. In his three stints behind the wheel, Dillon indicated that he ran a similar seat set-up to Stewart's, which he said should help facilitate a speedy mid-race driver change in Sunday's event.


Stewart plans to resume normal full-time driving the following weekend at Kansas Speedway. Dillon is set to continue in his full-time job racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with part-time detail in NASCAR's top division as part of an alliance with Richard Childress Racing and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing.


Regardless of the No. 14 team's result Sunday, Dillon said the support from Stewart and the rest of SHR has been an enriching experience.


"Not just being able to drive for Stewart-Haas, but to have Tony and the guys have me come out and fill in for the race means so much for me, not only just getting experience but confidence-wise for my career, knowing that someone else believes in me, knows that I can get the job done," Dillon said. "Tony, every race that I've run so far has been such an awesome help on the radio. He's just such a good guy and always willing to help. He's done so much for my career in just the past couple months, it's incredible.


"Excited to be getting back in at Talladega. It's going to be fun, it's going to be a little bit different than the past couple of races I've ran in the 14 car, but I think we're going to have a shot."

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