After much speculation as to who will take over the wheel of the No.11 in the Sprint Cup Series, it’s finally confirmed.
Mark Martin, who currently races in a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, will take over the car vacated by the injured Denny Hamlin who is sidelined for at least the next five races with an L1 compression fracture during a last-lap crash in Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway.
“I’m happy to have the opportunity to help out JGR, FedEx and Denny,” said Martin in a Joe Gibbs Racing statement.
“Hopefully I can keep these guys up front and compete for wins while Denny heals up.”
During his career, the 54-year-old Martin has started 858 Sprint Cup Series races while accumulating 40 wins to go along with 271 top-five’s and 449 top-10 finishes.
“Obviously we’re not exactly sure how long that is going to take, but Mark’s career speaks for itself and our team knows it will have the opportunity to compete for a win every week,” said J.D. Gibbs, President of Joe Gibbs Racing.
“A lot goes into a decision like this but we are really pleased to have someone of the character and caliber of Mark Martin to fill in while Denny is out.”
Martin’s first race subbing for Hamlin will be the April, 7 race at Martnsville (VA) Speedway; a track Martin hasn’t raced since 2011.
The veteran driver will also take part in the races at Texas, Kansas and Richmond with a hopeful return for Hamlin on the May,11 race at Darlington Raceway.
No replacement has been named for the race following Richmond, Talladega; a track that Martin will not race at.
“I just hate not being able to be in the car right now, but I really appreciate Mark being able to fill in for me,” Hamlin said.
“Like everyone in NASCAR, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark and I know he will keep that FedEx Camry up front until I get back behind the wheel.”
A replacement driver for Martin in the No.55 for the races he will drive for JGR has not been named at the time.
Brian Vickers will drive the car, as scheduled, next weekend at Martinsville and Michael Waltrip will also drive in his scheduled date at Talladega.