E.A. Sports Today

Stewart back on track, Dillon to sub at Dega

‘Smoke’ cleared to resume his ‘farewell tour’ this week at Richmond; he’ll start the race at Talladega for points, then yield to Dillon

Ty Dillon (L) and Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch stopped by Railroad Park last week on a promotional stop for the track's Geico 500 weekend April 29-May 1.

Ty Dillon (L) and Talladega Superspeedway chairman Grant Lynch stopped by Railroad Park last week on a promotional stop for the track’s Geico 500 weekend April 29-May 1.

By East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — Ty Dillon was at Railroad Park last week to help promote the park’s family exercise area as part of Talladega Superspeedway’s outreach for the Geico 500 weekend.

He talked about his family legacy and the white-knuckle racing that Talladega is famous for. The question he couldn’t answer was whether he’d be in the car for Tony Stewart for the Geico 500 May 1.

He got his answer Thursday. Stewart’s team announced the three-time series champion will return to complete his final season of racing this week at Richmond and take the green flag next week at Talladega before giving way to Dillon.

Stewart missed the first eight races after suffering a broken back in an ATV accident Jan. 31.

“As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar,” Stewart said in his team’s news release. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.”

Following Richmond, Stewart will participate in a Goodyear tire test April 26-27 at Indianapolis, then practice and qualify his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet at Talladega.

However, he will only start the race before yielding the car to Ty Dillon, who has split substitute driving duties this year with Brian Vickers.

“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart said. “Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it’s a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds.

“We’ll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimize the amount of time I’m in the car. I’ll return fulltime at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.”

Richmond, the home of Stewart’s first career Sprint Cup win, will be Stewart’s 591st career Sprint Cup start. He has three wins, four seconds and 11 top-fives there.

Dillon has driven the No. 14 three times this season, posting top 20 finishes in Atlanta (17) and Phoenix (15). He already was driving in the Sparks Energy 300 Xfinity Series race at Talladega.

“I’d love to be racing in the 14 car, but we’ll just have to see,” Dillon said at the time. “For me this year, running Xfinity full-time trying to win the championship is my main focus, but the starts I do get in the Sprint Cup series this year I want to make the most of them and show sponsors what I can do … and I think I’ve done a great job of that so far this year.

“To learn from probably a first-round Hall of Fame guy who’s still racing and be able to drive his race car and have him directly work with me and be on the radio, it means a lot. He’s been such a boost to my confidence this year, getting positive feedback from him and being able to bounce questions off him, I look forward to what is to come.

“I know at some point he’s going to come back and be healthy and be ready to run – and it’s his car – but any opportunity they want to give me from this point out is great.”

Dillon is the grandson of Richard Childress, Talladega’s all-time winningest car owner, but he doesn’t really see himself as a “legacy guy.”

“I know what my family’s history and RCR at Talladega is, it’s a very rich history,” he said. “My goal is always to win. I think if we were to get into Victory Lane at Talladega it would mean a lot because we’ve had such a good history at Talladega as a team.

“Being able to watch so many victories over the past years it would mean a lot to me. Just winning at Talladega would be a great feat.”

He’s done it before, winning in the 2011 ARCA race here on a last-lap pass for “a moment I’ll never forget.”

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