Ty Dillon focused on final ride in Tony Stewart’s No. 14 car

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
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That Ty Dillon will race in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway is what he was hoping for a year ago.

He just didn’t think it would be in a relief role.

“I was hoping to maybe be full-time this year in the Sprint Cup Series by this time last year,’’ the 24-year-old said Friday. “That’s where I had my goals set. The opportunity didn’t come along.’’

Unable to secure sponsorship, Dillon instead is racing full-time in the Xfinity Series for Richard Childress Racing. He entered the weekend third in the standings behind series leader Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler.

Dillon will appear in his sixth Cup race Sunday when he relieves Stewart after the first caution, if not sooner. It will mark Dillon’s final appearance in the No. 14 car for Stewart-Haas Racing with Stewart scheduled to return to full-time duty next weekend at Kansas Speedway.

Dillon has driven three races for Stewart-Haas and two races for Circle Sport – Leavine Family Racing this Cup season. His best finish is 15th at Phoenix, driving Stewart’s car.

“I can’t thank Stewart-Haas and their organization enough for giving me the opportunity to fill in this year with Tony being out,’’ Dillon said. “Not only has it helped me with my career and getting better as race car driver but it’s helped me show people that I can get the job done.’’

Dillon is scheduled to drive the first Cup practice today in Stewart’s car and qualify the car Saturday before taking over from Stewart during Sunday’s race.

“I feel like I’m ready to be in the (Cup) series full-time as a driver, mentally and physically, but this year I’m focused on winning the Xfinity championship to make my prospects a little bit better,’’ he said.

Should Dillon win as a relief driver Sunday, it would provide the victory Stewart would need to qualify for the Chase — upon climbing into the top 30 in points. Dillon was asked what that would mean.

“First of all, it would mean I won a Sprint Cup race, and I would be pretty excited to begin with,’’ Dillon said. “On top of that, to be able to get Tony a step closer to be locked into the Chase would be really cool. I haven’t started a race without the goal of winning in my entire career. That’s where my focus is.

“If it all comes together and we do win the race, I’m sure it will be a heck of a party and everybody is going to be happy.’’