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Raceday: Your guide to Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400

Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013

Final word on Tony Stewart's replacement still up in the air

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Greg Zipadelli, the competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing, said he expects to have two drivers fill in for the injured Tony Stewart for the rest of the year in the No. 14 Chevy.

One of them will certainly be Austin Dillon, who will drive for the team in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Dillon will start 27th after racing in Saturday's Nationwide Race at Mid-Ohio Sports Course.

Zipadelli said the other driver will likely be announced before this week's race at Bristol.

"Everything will be ironed out for the rest of the year," said Zipadelli. "We've had hurdles to work through."

Zipadelli said one of the hurdles has been the sensitivity of having a driver from a rival team (Dillon drives for Richard Childress Racing) in an SHS car.

"It's very important that we both respect our boundaries from team to team," said Zipadelli. "We're just going to talk about what (Dillon) feels in that car and what he needs. We won't talk about particulars about what we're changing and we we're not really going to ask him to divulge things ..."

Stewart, who broke his leg in a sprint car race in Iowa earlier this month, is likely out for at least several weeks, Zipadelli said.

"He went to the doctor this week and there were no setbacks," said Zipadelli. "Basically, very simple instructions, stay in bed with your leg up over your heart for the next seven days and come back and see me."


Jumbled standings: Although Johnson has clinched a berth in the Chase, there's lots of uncertainty behind him. Nine drivers are separated by 33 points from positions nine through 17 - Greg Biffle to Tony Stewart.

Martin's future: Mark Martin has been mentioned as a possible successor to Montoya in the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevy. But Martin doesn't know. He also has been talked about as a replacement for Stewart.

"That's real complicated," said Martin of the Stewart spot. "It sounds logical, but there are a lot of complications that go with that. I have contracts. It's not as simple as you think."

Martin doesn't know what 2014 holds for him.

"I have no idea, I promise," he said.

But, he added, "I'm interested in what (EGR owner) Chip Ganassi has up his sleeve."

Three things to watch

1. Jimmie Johnson has a long way to go if he is to win for a first time at Michigan. He starts from rear of the field in a backup car after wrecking in practice Saturday.

2. Pole-winner Joey Logano posted the ninth-fastest qualifying lap in NASCAR history Friday. Does that translate in race trim Sunday?

3. Juan Pablo Montoya got fired this week. How does he react in his first race since news broke that he won't driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing next year? He starts sixth Sunday.

Observations Lots of news in recent weeks about veteran drivers being released for next season (Ryan Newman, Montoya), which means NASCAR's "Silly Season" is upon us.

Montoya said his "heart is in open wheel" on Friday, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him return to that form of auto racing. Other NASCAR drivers, including Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch, implied Friday that if Montoya hadn't figured out stock cars by now in his seven years in NASCAR, he never will.

Best bets

Three picks for your fantasy team:

Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle

Race facts

Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.

Track type: 2-mile, asphalt D-shaped oval.

Race distance: 400 miles of 200 laps.

Weather: Clear, highs in low 80s.

TV: Coverage begins at noon on ESPN. Green flag is 1:17 p.m.

Radio: Motor Racing Network.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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