Interim driver of No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy earns second career top-15
Austin Dillon, driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart, turned in a strong performance by finishing 14th in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Behind the wheel of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Dillon started 27th in the 43-car field and overcame a lap-14 accident with J.J. Yeley to post his second top-15 finish in just his 10th career Sprint Cup start.
“Our goal was a top-15, but I put us behind at the beginning,” Dillon said. “Thought I was going to be able to pass J.J. pretty easy, but I just got loose under him. It was totally my fault. I got in there hard, grabbed the brake and slid into him. I hate it for him and the 36 team. I know they’re out here battling each and every week. That was a bad deal for them. I didn’t mean to get into them like that.
Dillon and Addington battled back together. With a tenacious drive by the 23-year-old Dillon and savvy calls by the veteran Addington, the duo earned their lap back before the halfway mark and steadily marched through the field. After dropping to 41st following the accident with Yeley, Dillon rallied to 25th by lap 90. He cracked the top-20 after a two-tire pit stop while under caution on lap 137, and despite dropping to 23rd by lap 150, Dillon used the final 50 laps to methodically pick off cars, crossing the stripe in 14th when the checkered flag waved.
“Our car had a little right-side damage after that early wreck, but we got that fixed and were able to come back through there still really fast,” Dillon said. “I can’t say enough about this Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team. They fixed the car and Steve made some great calls to get us back on the lead lap. Man, that was fun. We had some really fast lap times in the middle of the race and just want to thank everybody for this opportunity. It was a blast.”
Dillon’s effort at Michigan kept the No. 14 car in a competitive position in the Sprint Cup Series’ owner standings. The No. 14 car is 13th with 653 points, 160 behind the series-leading No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports but only 10 points behind the 10th-place No. 16 team of Roush Fenway Racing. Stewart, out of the car indefinitely, dropped to 18th in points. He has 594 points, 219 out of first and 69 behind 10th-place Greg Biffle.
With only 10 career Sprint Cup starts, Dillon’s best finishes have come at Michigan. He has two top-15s in three Sprint Cup starts at the 2-mile oval, including his best career Sprint Cup result, which was 11th in the June 16 Quicken Loans 400. Dillon now has a total of nine starts at Michigan among Sprint Cup (three), the NASCAR Nationwide Series (three), the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (two) and the ARCA Racing Series (one).
Dillon, the 2011 Camping World Truck Series champion, pulled double-duty this weekend by also competing in the Nationwide Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. He led two laps before enduring a last-lap spin that dropped him to 21st. Dillon continues to stand strong in the Nationwide Series championship standings. He is fourth, only 15 points behind series leader Sam Hornish Jr.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans/PTA Chevrolet for SHR, also had a solid run at Michigan. He finished just ahead of Dillon in 13th to earn his 16th top-15 of the season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 23rd. It was Patrick’s 33rd career Sprint Cup start and her second at Michigan.
Joey Logano won the Pure Michigan 400 from the pole to score his third career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Michigan.
Kevin Harvick finished 1.018 seconds behind Logano in the runner-up spot while Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Biffle and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 34 laps, with six drivers failing to finish.
With round 23 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He dropped one spot to 15th and has 636 points, 177 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 27 behind 10th-place Biffle. Patrick remained in 27th place and has 418 points, 395 out of first and 245 away from 10th.
Three races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kahne, who is 11th in points, has the first wild card via his two wins. Martin Truex Jr. holds the second wild card as he is 12th in points with one victory. Logano, Newman and Stewart are next in line for the wild card as each has one victory and are 13th, 15th and 18th, respectively, in points.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished four spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 19th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday, Aug. 24, at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.