Dillon to Drive No. 31 at Fontana

Dillon will drive No. 31 at California FONTANA, Calif. (April 29, 1998) NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division driver Mike Dillon has been named by his father-in-law, team owner Richard Childress, to drive the No. 31...

   Dillon will drive No. 31 at California
   FONTANA, Calif. (April 29, 1998)

NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division driver Mike Dillon has been named by his father-in-law, team owner Richard Childress, to drive the No. 31 Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse Chevrolet Monte Carlo in Sunday's NASCAR Winston Cup Series California 500 presented by NAPA at California Speedway.

Mike Skinner, the regular driver of the Lowe's Chevrolet, will miss his third straight race because of injuries he suffered at Texas Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway in April and March, respectively. Skinner is expected to resume his driving duties May 16 in the Winston Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"The doctors feel Mike (Skinner) needs another week to 10 days to completely heal from his injuries," said Childress. "He probably could get back in the car at California, but we want to make sure he is 100 percent for the rest of the year. So we feel the best thing to do is have him sit out one more race.

"We still have a lot of high hopes for the 31 car this season, and we need Mike to be at his best for us to accomplish those goals. Charlotte will be six weeks after Texas, and the doctors believe that time frame is the best medicine for Mike. So we decided to have him sit out one more race."

Dillon, a NASCAR Busch Series regular who is having his best year there, standing in 10th in points, will attempt to make his NASCAR Winston Cup Series debut in California. He relief-drove for Dale Earnhardt -- who drives Childress' other NASCAR Winston Cup Series car, the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Plus Chevrolet -- at last year's Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway after Earnhardt came close to passing out shortly after the start of the race.

"Mike (Dillon) has done a lot of testing for us in the past couple of seasons, and he has done a real good job," Childress said. "Plus he ran real well at California last year in the Busch race. So we feel confident that he will be able to do us a good job this weekend."

Dillon, 32, led twice for seven laps in last year's NASCAR Busch Series race, the Kenwood Home & Car Audio 300, at California Speedway before finishing sixth.

Morgan Shepherd drove the Lowe's Chevrolet at Martinsville Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway for the injured Skinner. But Shepherd became unavailable to continue this role on Monday when he was named to drive the First Union Chevrolet Monte Carlo owned by Felix Sabates.

"Morgan did us a real good job in the two races," Childress said. "He deserves a full-time ride, and we are glad he now has one."

Shepherd rallied from a lap down to finish 11th in the Goody's 500 at Martinsville. At Talladega, he was running 12th when he got caught up in a 20-car accident on lap 141. As a result, he had to be content with a 35th-place finish.

Dillon says his job at California is simple.

"First, to qualify the car as well as possible, and then to run the whole race," Dillon said. "I want to thank the entire Lowe's team for this opportunity, and I want to do them a good job."

In the first nine NASCAR Busch Series races this year, Dillon has one top-five and four top-10 finishes. He is only 21 points behind point leader Matt Kenseth.

This is Dillon's third full season on the NASCAR Busch Series. His best career finish has been fourth on two occasions -- last year's fall race at Dover and earlier this month at Hickory. His four top-10s this season already match his total of a year ago.

Skinner, who suffered a broken right scapula and a fractured bone in his left wrist in the accident at Texas, agrees that the "best thing is to sit out another race. I can't say I'm happy about it. I sure would prefer to be back in the car. This sitting and watching is even more painful than the injuries.

"But the doctors feel the best medicine is time out of the car... They feel five or six weeks is what I need to completely heal. So that is what we are doing. Charlotte will be six weeks.

"I'm counting the days to then. I sure will be glad when Charlotte gets here. This team hasn't had a lot of luck this season. But we have had some great race cars. So we feel we can still have a good 1998. There are still more than 20 races left in the season. And that's the way we are looking at it. We still have plenty of time to make 1998 a good season."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Mike Skinner , Morgan Shepherd , Felix Sabates