|Dillon will be busy|
“We went down through the list and saw who is available and who had track time, who was doing double duty and was willing to try to work out a schedule that would work for both sides,” said Zipadelli. “(Austin) has a strong relationship with Bass Pro Shop, and a big part of how we go through this is making sure that our partners are happy with what we're doing as far as who we're putting in the car and who will represent their brands in the way they want it represented.
“There is a strong relationship there (and) Austin's done a great job in the past at Michigan. We kind of felt like it was a good fit for us this week.”
“It's a great opportunity for me,” admitted Dillon, who will do double-duty in both the Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio Saturday and the Sprint Cup race Sunday. “We're really focused on the Nationwide Championship, and we're going to give both parties a great opportunity at a win this weekend. We're going to go out there and try to run strong.”
Dillon said that while scheduling will be tricky this weekend, a special Thursday test day at Mid-Ohio should allow him to get ample seat time in both rides.
“We'll be on doing our best to give an equal amount of practice time,” he said. “(At) Mid‑Ohio, we have a full test day there Thursday, so we'll have plenty of time on the track. We have lots of sets of tires, and we'll be using them up Thursday.
“Qualifying seems to be the issue for the Nationwide race,” he added. “That is the only part that will be tough. We might have to start in the rear. But I think we've done a good job of trying to work out where each party gets a good amount of practice on both cars.
Dillon said he will not allow his double-duty schedule to impact his Nationwide Series title effort. “We're going to win the Nationwide Series,” he said. “That is our main goal. We've been fighting for it all year long… so we're going to do our best to come up with a good strategy for both races. I think we'll be just fine.”
Zipadelli said he expects more announcements of this type in coming weeks, as the team assembles a schedule of replacement drivers for Stewart.
“It's going to be a weekly occurrence for a little while,” he admitted. “We'll evaluate each race as it comes and do the best job we can putting someone in that we feel will do a good job for Stewart‑Haas and our partners.” He declined to comment specifically on the length of Stewart’s absence from competition, saying, “We will probably know more next week. Tony has a doctor's appointment Wednesday to go over things, and at that point we'll have a lot better idea of what we're doing. But for right now, it will probably be a week‑by‑week decision as far as who is in the car."
Zipadelli said he is not anxious to host a revolving door of drivers in the final 14 weeks of the season. “I think we'd rather have one or two drivers, if we can work it out,” he said. “I think that will give us some consistency, (allow us to) build some communication between the crew and the driver and give us our best chance. We're working on some of that stuff now and hopefully we'll see it. It may be more than two, maybe three or four (drivers). If that's the case, we'll look at each individual racetrack and see who is available that runs good at that track and make the best choice we can."
And finally, Zipadelli said he is not concerned about Dillon (a Richard Childress Racing driver), taking any trade secrets back to his grandfather’s operation.
“We're going to put a blindfold on him,” he laughed. “And right before he backs out of the garage, we'll take it off. Then he won't be able to look.
“It will probably be difficult at times, but I think it's a one‑shot deal right now. We'll see where that goes (and) we'll see how it all works. We've got to be guarded, and for him, he's got to come over here and trust that we can put something in the car that he can drive. At the same time he can come over here and tell us all the things they're doing too.”