Ty Dillon knows this could be one of the biggest weekends to date of his NASCAR racing career.
Dillon is competing in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, as usual. But he has the added duties of replacing the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
“It’s a huge weekend,” Dillon said Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “With those unfortunate circumstances, I was able to be in the car this weekend, which is good for me to get the experience in such great equipment.”
Dillon isn’t taking this opportunity lightly.
“I have high expectations for this weekend,” he said. “I want to run good in this car. I want to do good for Tony and Stewart-Haas Racing. I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to run in the top 10 or top 15.
“I’ve been talking with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) all week. I want to go out there and impress a lot of people and show people what I’m made of and what I can do in these race cars. Going back and forth will help me a lot, especially in my Xfinity car. It would be nice to get two good finishes here in Atlanta.”
At the same time, SHR officials have told Dillon just to do his best.
“I have one job to do, and that’s drive the race car as fast I can,” Dillon said. “I know Stewart-Haas is going to give me the best equipment possible. I’m going to get in there and work as hard as I can from the first time I’m in the race car. We’re going to make the best out of the situation. … The main thing is that we want to finish the race and bring the car back in the same condition that we brought it here.”
Dillon has spent much of his racing career with his grandfather’s organization, Richard Childress Racing. Now that he’s driving this weekend for another premier organization, Dillon is learning to become a quick study on how SHR does things vs. what he’s used to at RCR.
“Everything is different for me,” he said. “I’ve been used to having one company my whole life that I’ve worked with. This whole week I’ve been at Stewart-Haas, talking to those guys and getting to know them.
“It’s been great and an awesome experience for me, too. It’s helped me grow not just as a driver but as a person and learning how to go about things different. I’m excited for what this brings. It’s definitely a different feeling coming into this weekend, but it’s not a worse feeling. It’s really good.”
Over the offseason, Dillon had hoped to have additional Cup starts in 2016 while running for the Xfinity championship. He’s picked up five starts with Circle Sport–Leavine Family Racing, and the SHR situation is an added bonus.
“I wanted to start off the year knowing I was going to run more Cup races,” he said. “So with this opportunity coming about, it gives me a chance to showcase what I can do in these cars and gain experience.
“I’ve only run a certain amount of races in the Sprint Cup Series so far (eight with a best finish of 14th last June at Michigan), so any time I can get more laps and more experience it’s always going to help. So it does take away a little bit of the sting from not running more of a schedule that I was hoping for this year in the Sprint Cup Series.”
As for whether this is a one-off opportunity or whether he’ll do more starts in place of Stewart, Dillon was noncommital.
“We’ll see,” he said. “The main focus right now is just here. This whole process has been day-to-day. We’ll see but right now we’re going to focus on doing the best we can here in Atlanta and go forward from there.”