Austin Dillon will head to Michigan International Speedway looking to make Nationwide Series history. And along the way, he hopes to gain valuable Sprint Cup experience.
When the first day of auto racing opens today at Michigan International Speedway, Dillon will attempt to qualify for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, the track’s marquee June event.
Saturday morning, he’ll compete for a record fourth consecutive Nationwide pole when qualifying opens at 10:35 a.m. for the Nationwide Alliance Auto Parts 250 — a race that Dillon has a certain stake in.
Dillon will compete for his fourth consecutive Nationwide pole this season. With pole wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, and Iowa Speedway, Dillon has tied a record with Sam Ard, Trevor Bayne, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, and Michael Waltrip.
“We’re out here trying to break records and create a name for ourselves,” said Dillon, who is fourth in the Nationwide points standings. “That group of people is an awesome group of people to be held up against, so if we can go out there and break that six-way tie that it is right now in the Nationwide Series for poles, it would be amazing. We're going to a track where I’m very capable of setting the pole.”
Dillon’s pursuit of a Nationwide record is one of a handful of storylines for this weekend at MIS, which opens today with qualifying for the ARCA and Sprint Cup races, followed by the ARCA Patriot Pumps 200 at 5:15 p.m.
Dillon, the grandson of Richard Childress, won the pole for Camping World Trucks Series VFW 200 in June of 2010 at MIS, then won the pole for the Alliance Auto Parts 250 last June on a newly repaved track, where Sprint Cup drivers set record speeds during qualifying but succumbed to a hot track that caused tires to blister and eventually forced Goodyear to mandate a more durable set of tires for the 2012 Quicken Loans 200.
At testing at MIS in May, neither Trevor Bayne nor Kurt Busch experienced any tire issues. Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman believes track wear and tear, as well as a new model of stock car, will help balance the field this weekend.
“I think it’s going to be different, and it’s going to be the same,” said Newman, who will drive the No. 39 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing. “I think the asphalt is going to have aged and lost a little bit of speed. But the Gen-6 car is going to come back with a little additional speed. I think we'll be fairly comparable overall in speed and the way the cars drive because of that off-set.”
Goodyear representatives said this week that the Sprint Cup cars will use the same combination of tires that they used in August during the Pure Michigan 400, including sturdier left-side Goodyear tires and more durable tires with a different construction and mold shape.
“Goodyear has done their work to correct their tire issue from last year,” Newman said. “I commended them for making that change before the race, giving us an extra practice session [in June]. I think all that was the right thing to do for our sport, having seen how it failed and how it adversely affects the sport, going back to Indianapolis a few years ago. I think it should be a fairly painless weekend, but it's just a matter of who wins.”