CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Austin Dillon is keeping his expectations at a reasonable level heading into the weekend.
Dillon said Tuesday his goal is to finish in the top 15 when he fills in for the injured Tony Stewart at Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
“I think that would be where we need to start and anything past that would be a good day,” Dillon said. “I’m just looking forward to getting in the car and seeing what I can do.”
The 23-year-old Dillon says there’s some added pressure stepping in for Stewart, someone he considers one of his racing idols.
But he said Stewart has shown great confidence in him driving the No. 14 Chevrolet.
“Tony texted to say, `I’m glad I have a good wheel man in my racecar this weekend.’ That’s pretty special to me,” Dillon said.
Stewart is recovering from a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa. It’s unclear when Stewart will return to racing, but in the meantime Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continues to field his No. 14 Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series.
There’s a chance Dillon could run more races for Stewart while he continues to heal but nothing has been decided.
SHS has not named a driver for the Aug. 24 race at Bristol.
Dillon said he’s open to the idea of running more races for SHS, although he wants to keep a balance with the Nationwide Series schedule.
He’s currently leading the Nationwide point standings.
Dillon said he feels like running on the Sprint Cup series will only help his chances of landing a full-time ride on the Sprint Cup series in the future.
“There are still some things as far as experience that I’m learning,” Dillon said. “I think it’s a great opportunity. I want to accept the challenge and go after it.”
Dillon called it a “humbling experience” to be asked to drive Stewart’s car.
Dillon has run nine career Sprint Cup races. His best finish is 11th earlier this year at Michigan.
Stewart finished in the top five in the race earlier this year at Michigan, so Dillon said he plans to pick Stewart’s brain about how he drove the car, but will leave the setup to the SHS crew.
“I told them to set up the car how you think is fastest,” Dillon said. “I don’t want anything to do with it. I just want to drive it. Tight or loose is all I’m going to give them… They’re expectations are low at this point, so you want to go out there and run all of the laps and have a good finish.”
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