Paul Newberry

HAMPTON, Ga.: As an heir in one of stock car racing’s royal families, Ty Dillon longs to have a Sprint Cup ride of his own.

For now, he’ll have to settle for being a NASCAR sub.

Dillon is filling in for injured Tony Stewart in Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a chance to bolster his fledgling career behind the wheel of one of the sport’s most recognized machines.

Dillon celebrated his 24th birthday on Saturday by finishing fifth in the Xfinity race at Atlanta, a precursor to his ninth Cup event — and first in Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet.

Smoke is recovering from back surgery after wrecking an all-terrain vehicle last month, keeping him on the sideline at the start of his farewell season. Brian Vickers filled in at the season-opening Daytona 500, and now it’s Dillon stepping into the seat.

The youngster had hoped to at least have a part-time Cup deal this season, after finishing third in the Xfinity series a year ago.

Being the grandson of longtime car owner Richard Childress and younger brother of Cup regular Austin Dillon would certainly seem to give one the inside track to a sponsorship deal.

But, showing just how tight dollars are these days, Ty Dillon was forced to settle for five races in the low-budget Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing No. 95 car, with Michael McDowell handling the bulk of the races.

He drove the No. 95 in the Daytona 500, where he started 12th and finished 25th. Now, he’s taking over Stewart’s machine.

“It does take away a little bit of the sting from not running more of a schedule than I was hoping for this year in the Sprint Cup series,” he said. “Now that I have the opportunity, I can go out there and do what I want to do.”

Here are some other things to watch for in Sunday’s race:

Jimmie’s jam

Keep an eye on six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who always seems to run up front in Atlanta. He won this race a year ago, his fourth career victory at the 1.54-mile trioval, to go along with 11 other top-10 finishes.

“Expectations are high,” said Johnson, who finished fifth at the Daytona 500. “This track, with the high tire wear and the bumpy conditions and the fact that you have to search around for [racing] lines, really suits my style.”

Elliott homecoming

Rookie Chase Elliott will be looking for redemption at the track where he grew up.

After claiming the pole at Daytona in his first event since taking over the No. 24 car from Jeff Gordon, the son of Bill Elliott wrecked early in the race and settled for a 37th-place showing.

“Not wrecking on Lap 20 would be a good start,” the 20-year-old said, joking. “But we’re already here at Atlanta, so getting drowned in last week isn’t going to do any good.”

Busch at the back

Kyle Busch will have to start from the back of the field, even though he put up the fastest speed in qualifying. His car failed inspection afterward, handing the pole to his brother Kurt.

Kyle won the Xfinity race with a dominating performance, but that didn’t lessen his disappointment.

“This is Xfinity, that’s Cup,” Busch said. “But it is what it is. It’s not that big a deal.”

New rules

This is the first race with a new aerodynamic package that is designed to create more passing and competitive racing, a response to rising complaints from a bored fan base.