Top-Notch Car, Crew and Coach at Phoenix
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (March 7, 2015) – Ty Dillon knows he’ll have a top-notch car, crew and coach when he climbs behind the wheel of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500k at Phoenix International Raceway.
The 24-year-old Dillon makes his second start in place of the injured Tony Stewart. But the three-time champion will likely be on the radio with Dillon at Phoenix, coaching him like he did throughout the Atlanta race weekend, when Dillon posted a 17th-place finish in the No. 14 Chevy.
“I was on top of the spotter’s stand to help Ty out at Atlanta,” Stewart said. “We realized after practice at Atlanta that, even if Ty didn’t need any help, it was just good to have me up there in case he had any questions to ask me. It was a big deal to him. That’s why we did it. I thought he did a great job. He far exceeded my expectations.”
Stewart underwent surgery after sustaining a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident Jan. 31 while vacationing on the West Coast. A timetable for Stewart’s return to racing has not been determined, but he will make a full recovery and return to the No. 14 Chevrolet in 2016. Dillon and Brian Vickers have substituted for Stewart. Vickers finished 26th Feb. 21 in the Daytona 500 and 36th in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The mile oval at Phoenix has been good to Dillon in other NASCAR series. He’s posted top-five finishes in three of the four NASCAR Xfinity Series races he entered there, and he finished fourth and 15th in the 2013 and 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at the track. Sunday will mark Dillon’s 10th career Sprint Cup start and second at Phoenix. He started 27th and finished 26th in the November 2014 Race for Heroes 500K driving for Circle Sport Racing.
Dillon expects to be busy this weekend in Phoenix. In addition to his No. 14 car duties, he’ll also drive in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race. He’s third in Xfinity points after the season’s first three races. Dillon also plans to run about six Sprint Cup races in 2016 for Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Chevrolet SS.
The Dillon family is well known in the NASCAR garage. In addition to his older brother Austin, who drives the No. 3 Chevrolet in Sprint Cup competition, Dillon’s father Mike owns 153 Xfinity Series starts and grandfather Richard Childress is destined for the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a car owner and driver.
Austin Dillon filled in for Stewart as he recuperated from a broken right tibia and fibula suffered in a Sprint car accident on Aug. 5, 2013. Dillon finished 14th at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and 26th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in the fall of that year.
This weekend, Ty Dillon will reunite with crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, who took over the No. 14 crew chief duties in 2016 after serving as the lead engineer for SHR’s No. 4 team since its inception in 2014.
TY DILLON, Substitute Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts on racing at Phoenix?
“I like Phoenix a lot. We haven’t been to victory lane there, yet, but we’ve had a lot of success there in the Xfinity Series and the (Camping World) trucks. It’s as fast as a mile oval as you will ever see. But it also races like a short track. Short-track racing is fun for me. It’s what I grew up doing and it’s a great show for the fans.”
Assess your first run in the No. 14 at Atlanta?
“You know, we kept getting better and better throughout the race. We got down a lap early like a lot of the field, but the more we worked on it the faster we got. Our long runs were really good. The team worked hard and we passed a lot of cars. Finishing 17th isn’t great, but for a first time out, I think we did OK.”
What are your thoughts on driving the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet?
“I have to thank Stewart-Haas Racing for the opportunity to be in the 14 car. I think everyone wants to see Tony (Stewart) in this car. With those unfortunate circumstances, I was able to be in the car, which is good for me to get the experience in such great equipment. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity. It’s an honor to drive the 14 for Tony. I have high expectations. I always set my goals high. I want to run good in this car. I want to do good for Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to run in the top-10 or top-15 each week. I’m going to give it all I have. I want to go out there and impress a lot of people and show people what I’m made of and what I can do in these racecars.”
What is it like to go from Richard Childress Racing to SHR?
“It’s different. Everything is different for me. I’ve been used to having one company my whole life that I’ve worked with. It’s been great and an awesome experience for me, too. It’s helped me grow not just as a driver but as a person and learning how to go about things differently. I’m excited for what this brings. It’s really good.”
Are there bragging rights between you and Austin, and is your family rooting for both the Childress team and SHR?
“Yeah, I had to make sure it was OK for my friends and everybody to pull for Stewart-Haas Racing. They had to ask my mom if it was OK and she said it was good. Every time we race in any series, there are always bragging rights between us. Even if it’s not said between us, we’re always trying to beat the other one.”
What are your expectations in the No. 14 Chevy?
“I have one job to do, and that’s drive the racecar as fast I can. I know Stewart-Haas is going to give me the best equipment possible. I’m going to get in there and work has hard as I can from the first time I’m in the racecar. We’re going to make the best out of the situation. The main thing is that we want to finish races. That’s the first thing – we want to finish the race and bring the car back in the same condition that we brought it here. With what Stewart-Haas can bring to the track as far as racecars and equipment right out of the gate, we ought to be able to finish on the lead lap and in the top-15 – top-10 being a bonus.”
TONY STEWART, Regular Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing:
Would you reconsider extending your retirement year to next year?
“We said in the announcement last year that this year would be the last year. I’m not going to change the plan because I got hurt. These are the cards we were dealt. It was a weird accident that nobody ever thought would happen. I mean, I can’t even make up the story about how I got hurt – I can’t even make it sound cool. I mean, I got hurt driving five miles an hour. That’s hard to make sound cool. I wish I could tell you the story that I was jumping a 50-foot gap, running 60 miles an hour, it flipped over, caught on fire, and I broke my back. That’s not what happened. I went over the lip of a dune, went down 20, 25 feet, landed like a lawn dart. It broke my back. It’s hard to make that sound cool, but that’s just what it is. That’s the cards we’re dealt. We’ll play the rest of the year out. As soon as they tell me I can be back in the car, I’m going to be wide-open, 100 percent. I’m not going to leave anything on the table each race. It’s get everything I can get. At the end of the year, we got what we got. I’ll go on with the rest of it afterward.”
How have Mobil 1, Bass Pro Shops and the rest of your sponsors reacted to you not being in the car?
“They’ve been through a lot with us the last couple of years and stood behind us 100 percent, supported us 100 percent. That’s not changed this year, too. I think it speaks volumes to what Mobil 1, Bass Pro Shops and all of our partners mean to SHR. I don’t know how you handle it. You can’t predict it’s going to happen. Obviously, if you had a choice, you would never let any of these things happen. But you’ve got to move on and you’ve got to do the best you can. Luckily, we have partners who care more about what we’re doing than me being inside the racecar each week. They care about the program, they care about everybody who works in the program. We keep pushing forward. They’ve been supportive through every one of the things we’ve been through in the last three years.”
Have you given any thoughts to any one-offs, anything in the future for the Daytona 500 or anything along those lines?
“No, not even 1 percent considering it. There are races that I want to run. I honestly am trying to figure out how I could run the Truck race at Eldora. It sounds easy to sign up and do it. I’ve got a lot of responsibilities. But I’d love to run the Truck race there. I’d love to run some Mod Tour races at Loudon when we’re up there. There’s one-off races like that, but there are not going to be one-off races in the Cup Series.”
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine