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.