Austin Dillon to drive Stewart’s No. 14 at Michigan

4 Comments

NASCAR Nationwide Series championship leader Austin Dillon will take over the injured Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the Pure Michigan 400 this coming weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

In addition to his full-time NNS duties with Richard Childress Racing, Dillon has competed in seven Sprint Cup races this season. His most recent one was the Brickyard 400, in which he finished 26th.

Dillon will be the second different driver to fill in for Stewart as he recovers from breaking his right tibia and fibula in a sprint car crash last Monday night in Iowa.

SHR announced yesterday that the three-time Cup champion had been released from the hospital. Open-wheel and sports car veteran Max Papis finished 15th in Stewart’s car on the road course at Watkins Glen International.

“I’ve watched Austin for many years and at each stage of his racing career he’s been successful,” Stewart said in an SHR team statement. “He’s proven to be a very fast learner, and he’s able to adapt quickly. Being the youngest champion in the history of the [Camping World] Truck Series is proof of that.

“His background in dirt racing is an asset, and off the track we share many of the same interests, specifically, hunting and fishing. I know he’ll perform well at Michigan and I’m just as confident in his ability to properly represent Mobil 1 and Bass Pro Shops throughout the race weekend.”

The statement also said that SHR has not yet determined an interim driver for the No. 14 car at the Aug. 24 event at Bristol Motor Speedway.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

Leave a comment

While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter