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.