Notebook: Ty Dillon at the ready to replace Tony Stewart

Ty Dillon will take over for Tony Stewart after the first caution in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Ty Dillon will take over for Tony Stewart after the first caution in Sunday’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Getty Images

Ty Dillon is pulling double duty this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Well, almost.

Dillon will run Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 Xfinity Series race in his usual No. 3 Chevy.

Sunday, Dillon will drive in most – but not all – of the Geico 500 Cup race as a relief driver for Tony Stewart.

Stewart, who missed the first eight races of the season with a fractured spine suffered in a preseason dune buggy accident, returned last weekend at Richmond, Va. He will only start Sunday’s race (to get points) on a more physically challenging Talladega track before turning the car over to Dillon.

The No. 14 Chevy – in which Dillon split time with Brian Vickers during Stewart’s absence – will be set up on the interior to fit Dillon.

“It’s just a quarter-inch difference and the belt set is all that we are playing with,” Dillon said. “We’ve got adjustable belts to make up for that really quickly. We have had to make a couple of changes to kind of compensate for a little bit of both, but mostly everything in there is built for me and for my comfort, because I will be in it for the longer part of the race.”

Both drivers practiced in the car Friday. Dillon will qualify the car Saturday, which means Stewart will start the race from the rear of the field. Stewart said he will stay back there until he turns the car over to Dillon.

“There will be ample time to get that caution to get us out,” Stewart said.

If Dillon were to win the race, Stewart would get credit and be eligible to qualify for the postseason Chase.

“I don’t think I will feel good about it if I were to get a spot that way,” said Stewart, who received a medical waiver from NASCAR to make him eligible to qualify. “I know I wouldn’t feel good about it. I think for me to make the Chase, it needs to be because I ran the whole race and won the race. Not started it and somebody else won it for me.”


▪ Qualifying for Sunday’s race will be at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Joey Logano (196.290 mph) had the fastest time in Friday’s second practice session, followed by Ryan Blaney (196.238), Chase Elliott (196.185) and Danica Patrick (195.094).

▪ Bobby Labonte, who won the 2000 Cup championship, is continuing his superspeedway, restrictor-plate-only schedule this weekend.

“I still like the passing of racing and being competitive,” said Labonte, who finished 31st in the season-opening Daytona 500 and plans to run again at Daytona and Talladega this season.

▪ NASCAR suspended Nick Sandler, crew chief of Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s team, for Sunday’s race for a technical violation relating to the No. 17 Ford’s steering wheel coupling last weekend at Richmond.