By David Morgan, NASCAR Writer
With Brian Vickers locked into the No. 14 Chevrolet in relief of Tony Stewart for Daytona, the attention has focused on which driver will be behind the wheel for Stewart-Haas Racing next weekend at Atlanta and beyond.
When the news that Stewart had been injured broke, one of the names that jumped to the top of the list was Ty Dillon, who will be driving in the NASCAR Xfinity Series full-time for Richard Childress Racing and in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a part-time basis for Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing.
When the NASCAR media gathered at Daytona International Speedway on Tuesday for the annual Daytona 500 media day, Dillon had a chance to answer the burning question that everyone wanted answered: Will he be piloting the No. 14 car this season?
“Obviously it is something that has been talked about a lot, but nothing has been finalized. Unfortunately, it kind of stinks that we are even talking about that down here. I think everybody including myself want to Tony (Stewart) go out the right way and to able to run every single race. To get back to the question – it would be an honor for me to drive Tony’s car in his last year, and hopefully do good for those guys. Nothing has been announced yet. I haven’t signed anything yet. We’ve been in talks. Hopefully we will have some news sooner or later, but nothing is finalized yet. But, if the opportunity were to come about, I would be honored to drive the No. 14 car and represent Tony in his last year,” said Dillon.
Dillon, who has driven in the NASCAR Xfinity Series full-time over the past two seasons, with one win to his name (Indianapolis – 2014), should be able to provide Stewart-Haas with some decent finishes and allow crew chief Mike Bugarewicz to get some experience on top of the pit box in his first season as a crew chief. Dillon would also provide the team with some continuity on the sponsorship front as he is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the Xfinity Series, and Stewart’s No. 14 team also has Bass Pro as one of their primary sponsors through the season.
“As many races as I can run, bring them on. I like to be in as many cars, and especially Sprint Cup Series. It is the highest level of motorsports racing and that is where I want to be. To run it full-time this year was obviously my goal, and it didn’t quite work out that way. So the opportunities I get especially with Leavine and Circle Sport Racing to go out there and build my resume and build my notebook for hopefully a next year running full-time is always something I welcome and want to bring on. So anytime any kind of opportunity comes to me to get more laps, more racing in the Sprint Cup Series, I want to take it,” Dillon said.
While the focus on Dillon is on whether he will drive for Stewart-Haas or not, the 24-year old still has his sights set on Sunday’s Daytona 500, as well as his third season in the Xfinity Series, in which he hopes to finally score the championship that has eluded him thus far in his career.
“To be able to represent the Leavine Family and Circle Sport Racing with Joe Faulk and the dedication they put in as team owners, and they have a charter or a medallion, whatever they are calling it out, to be locked into the race is one thing, and to be able to give them an opportunity to run well. I believe we have a shot at. We are in the Daytona 500 and have a chance to win it. For them to bring me on board to run the races I am running I take it as an honor and go out there and show everybody what we are made,” said Dillon.
“The last two years have been successful years. I’ve been in the hunt to win the championship and there have been a couple of races that have taken us out in the old style point’s format. I think this year if we run the same way we have in the past, we’ll have an awesome opportunity to win the championship because the second half of the season has been really strong for me the past two years. I think last year I don’t know how many top-fives we had coming down the stretch. If we can do that again this year, it is going to be very beneficial and we’ll be in that last race at Homestead to have a chance to win a championship.”
Image: NASCAR Media Group