E.A. Sports Today

Stewart, Dillon make plans

Veteran driver will start Sunday’s race at Talladega, then give way to relief at the first caution

Sprint Cup drivers Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart share a light sponsor's moment before getting down to serious subjects like lugnuts, drivers councils and relief drivers.

Sprint Cup drivers Danica Patrick and Tony Stewart share a light sponsor’s moment before getting down to serious subjects like lugnuts, drivers councils and relief drivers.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – If Tony Stewart – or rather Ty Dillon – can bring their car to Victory Lane in the GEICO 500 this weekend Stewart would be one step closer to getting into The Chase in his final year as a driver.

Dillon said if that were to happen it would create one heck of a party for him. The veteran Stewart, however, said he would feel a little funny making a spot in the Sprint Cup playoffs that way regardless where he was in his career.

Stewart was cleared to get back in the car last week after breaking his back in an ATV accident right before Daytona and started his Farewell Tour in Richmond. He said at the time he would start the race Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, then make way for Dillon to relieve him at the first caution.

NASCAR has said if the car wins, they can use it to secure a spot in The Chase.

“I appreciate that, I don’t think I’ll feel good about that if I were to get a spot that way — I know I wouldn’t feel good about it,” Stewart said. “I think for me to make The Chase it needs to be because I ran the whole race and won the race not started it and somebody else won it for me.”

Nowhere did he say he wouldn’t take it.

Dillon, meanwhile, was excited about the prospect of taking the checkered flag for his mentor.

“To be able to get Tony a step closer would be really cool,” he said. “I haven’t started a race without the focus of winning. If we do win the race, it’ll be a heck of a party and everybody will be happy.”

The plan is for Dillon qualify the car, have Stewart start the race and then change drivers during the first caution.

There most assuredly will be one early – Stewart tried to boost his argument by telling doctors it’d be in the first three laps – and certainly one in the final 10 laps, which is not where Stewart wants to be for his doctors’ sanity.

The car’s interior is set up for Dillon’s body type and comfort, so it’ll be a tighter squeeze for Stewart. The only significant difference, they said, was about a quarter-inch in the belt setup.

“The reason for that is I want him to be as comfortable as he can be,” Stewart said. “I’m going to do what I always do around here at the beginning of the race and that’s ride around in the back until we get the first caution.

“Its not going to be very glamorous on my part, but it’s functional to accomplish the goal of what we need to and that’s meeting the surgeons half way. They didn’t want us to run this race, we needed the points so we talked them into letting us at least start the race.”

Even if the first caution doesn’t come until everyone’s well settled in it’s not likely he’ll be stressed. He said the intensity at that point in the race is “pretty sanitary” as opposed to the craziness of the finish where he really needs to have his feet up.

“There will be ample time to get that caution to get us out,” he said. “Talladega is so big that even if it’s 40 laps from the end of the race Ty will have enough time to do what he needs to do. Hopefully it’ll happen sooner than later so he can get into the flow of the race earlier.

“Everything he has done in our car this year has been awesome. I think he’s done a fantastic job and I think he’ll be fine this weekend as well.”

Preferably Stewart won’t be getting out of the car through the roof hatch, but he’s made escapes in more unconventional ways.

“It’s not a way I’ve ever planned on going out at anything, through the roof,” he said. “There’s one girl I dated I exited a little differently, but that’s a whole different story that has nothing to do with racing.”

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