NASCAR Notes: Dillon Preps For Cup Debut
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on August 5, 2014 | 2:20 P.M. EST
Ty Dillon is testing with Richard Childress Racing's Sprint Cup teams Tuesday and Wednesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in anticipation of his series debut this month. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ty Dillon, who will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut later this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway, is testing there today and Wednesday.
Richard Childress Racing’s three other Cup teams also are testing there this week. This is the third of four tests for RCR allowed at Cup tracks. Childress’ teams previously tested at Pocono and New Hampshire this season.
“I’m looking forward to it,’’ Dillon said of the test on Motor Racing Network’s “Motorsports Monday” show
Atlanta is where Dillon scored his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in 2012. The Cup race there is Aug. 31.
After the test, his focus returns to the Nationwide points race heading into Saturday’s event at Watkins Glen International. Dillon ranks fourth in the standings, trailing series leader Chase Elliott by 12 points. Regan Smith trails Elliott by two points with Elliott Sadler 12 points out of first.
Dillon has gained 22 points on the lead in the last three races, scoring top-fives in each event, including a win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Watkins Glen, though, will challenge Dillon. He’d never been there until testing last week in a Trans-Am Camara with older brother Austin. Both were schooled by Max Papis.
“If I can go there and not worry about trying to learn the track and worry more about trying to dial the car in to possibly win the race, we’re going to be really good,’’ Dillon said on “Motorsports Monday.’’
Tuesday marks one year since Tony Stewart suffered a severely broken leg in a sprint car crash in Iowa. The accident forced him to miss the final 15 Cup races last season.
Stewart tweeted a note of thanks Tuesday night: “1 yr ago today my life changed. Thank you to everyone that worked so hard to get me back to where I'm at today. It's your life, live it!’’
He heads into this weekend’s Cup race at Watkins Glen International 19th in the standings and without a win.
There have been 11 different winners this season, leaving five spots for now for non-winners to make the Chase. Those highest in points without a win take any remaining positions. Stewart is 53 points out of that final spot for non-winners. Greg Biffle owns that final spot with 590 points, one point ahead of Kasey Kahne and two points ahead of Austin Dillon.
Stewart finished first or second seven times at Watkins Glen from 2002-09. Since, he has one top-10 finish there.
After his third-place finish at Sonoma Raceway earlier this season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked if that changed how he views road courses.
“Not really,’’ he said. “I never inspired to be one, a road course racer. I love ovals, I love fenders and love racing on ovals and banging fenders. Road course racing is all right, and I'm glad we don't have too many of them, and just honest, I just don't really enjoy it that much.
“But it's on the schedule and we got to go to it. I go in there positive and ready to work and ready to work hard. If we work hard, we can get a great finish. So that's what we’ll try to do.’’
Jeff Gordon has only two top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen in the 12 races since his last victory there in 2001. ... The final caution at Watkins Glen has come out within the last 10 laps in six of the last nine races. ... Kyle Busch has won two Cup races at Watkins Glen but was passed for the lead with two laps to go in 2011 and on the last lap in 2012. ... Brad Keselowski has the best average finish at Watkins Glen among active drivers. His average finish is 6.5 in four starts there. ... Kasey Kahne has not lead a lap on a road course in the 10 races since his Sonoma victory in 2009. ... Matt Kenseth has never scored a top-five finish on a road course. His best finish on a road course is eighth three times.
Austin Dillon is entered in the K&N Pro Series East race this weekend at Watkins Glen International to get extra track time. ... Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, and Martin Truex Jr., all needing a win to make the Chase, were among those who tested last week at Watkins Glen.