Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS and Co-Owner of Stewart-Haas Racing
Tony Stewart will start his second race of the season on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, but will give his seat up to Ty Dillon following the first caution.
The maneuver permits Stewart to collect driver points as he hunts for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while allowing him to not risk hurting his healing back. If Dillon takes the checkered flag at Talladega, it counts as a win for Stewart.
“We’ll start the Talladega race to get the points but, understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it best to minimize the amount of time I’m in the car,” Stewart said. “I’ll return full-time at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can my final year of Sprint Cup.”
To qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Stewart must win a race, and finish the regular season in the top 30 in points. He is currently 40th in points (22), trailing 30th-place Matt DiBenedetto by 101. In comparison, Kyle Busch trailed 30th place by 179 points last year when he returned in the 12th race of the season. Stewart missed the first eight contests of 2016.
Stewart finished 22nd in his return at Richmond and completed all 400 laps.
What were your thoughts about your comeback race at Richmond last weekend?
“It didn’t feel like our first race together, mainly because of the races that we have been through together this year. I mean, I’ve been to seven of the eight races that I’ve missed. Being on the radio with him (Ty Dillon) and being on the pitbox and communicating with him, it really shortened that learning curve up. I don’t think we really missed anything. I feel like we got off to a really good start together. I don’t think there is a communication gap that we have to worry about.”
What has your time out of the car been like this year?
“I watched the Daytona 500 on television at home with my manager Eddie Jarvis. At the end of the race, I told Eddie, ‘That was a pretty good Daytona 500.’ He asked me why and I said, ‘Well, I didn’t get mad at anyone, nobody is mad at me and I didn’t get wrecked. So I didn’t think that was too bad of a last Daytona 500.’
“I’ve been at every race this year except Daytona. This has kind of given me an opportunity to see what the rest of my career is going to look like after this year. To be at the track talking with each of the SHR teams and our drivers and knowing what is going on is still just as exciting and just as intense.”
Assess Ty Dillon’s Performance?
“I really didn’t know what to expect with Ty, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. He’s taken to Sprint Cup racing really quickly and has impressed a lot of people at SHR. He listens and is a really quick learner. I think he has a good future ahead of him in the sport.”
Did the injury tempt you to rethink your Sprint Cup retirement plans?
“No, nothing has changed. I was looking forward to running in the Daytona 500, as well as racing at Las Vegas, Fontana and others, so I am disappointed I lost my chance to race at those places. But, I’m comfortable with the retirement plans. We have Clint Bowyer to drive the No. 14 next year and we’ll be fine. We are still going to have a lot of time in the car in 2016 and there’s a lot of racing left.”