Dillon appointment in No. 14 means a hectic weekend travel schedule

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The Austin Dillon appointment at Stewart Haas Racing for this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 is intriguing given the travel schedule it creates.

Dillon is focusing primarily on winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 2013, and its race this weekend couldn’t be more diametrically opposed than the 400-miler at the 2-mile Michigan International Speedway. The Nationwide cars head east to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on Saturday, and Dillon will pull double duty.

“We’re working all that out now,” Dillon said Monday on a media conference call. “The scheduling is tough this weekend. But the good thing is at Mid-Ohio, we have a full test day Thursday, with no limits on tires. Qualifying will be tough, as we might have to start in the rear. We can get a good amount of practice in both cars.”

SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said Dillon will be fully available to SHR on Friday and Sunday, with his Nationwide commitments on Thursday and Saturday.

He joked that he’d “need to blindfold” the Richard Childress Racing driver in Nationwide so he doesn’t acquire too much of the SHR tricks of the trade.

“It’s a one-shot deal for right now,” Zipadelli said. “We’ll see how it works. We have to be guarded and he has to trust us. Both sides, we need to be respectful for each other. I think it’ll be fine. He won’t be there that much, he’s got a lot of flying time.”

Zipadelli said partner Bass Pro Shops, with whom Dillon already has a strong relationship, helped make the decision.

“He has a strong relationship with Bass Pro Shops and it’s about making our partners happy, and who can represent their brands,” Zipadelli said. “Austin did a great job at Michigan. It’s a great fit for this week.”

The round-robin of driver picking is expected to continue week-to-week until Stewart’s return, Zipadelli said. But he anticipates knowing more on Stewart’s improvement on Wednesday, when Stewart has a doctor’s appointment.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III