Mark Martin is making the most of every opportunity. Martin, 54, will be making the move over from Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota to the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota, replacing the injured Denny Hamlin.
Martin was the only serious option left for the team after they had serious talks with Elliott Sadler who drives a NASCAR Nationwide Series car for Joe Gibbs Racing. However, Sadler is running two of the next five events in a fourth car for Joe Gibbs Racing and the sponsor refused to swap races. The team wanted a driver to be in the car for all the races so that option left the doors open for Martin.
Of course the team had Brian Vickers, their other Nationwide Series driver, but he’s scheduled to run for Waltrip’s team next week at Martinsville and team owner, Michael Waltrip, is racing the car at Talladega. That left Martin as the only option. Martin wasn’t scheduled to run at Martinsville nor Talladega as he refuses to run those tracks, but now he’ll be adding two races to his schedule for this season.
Martin hasn’t ran a race at Martinsville since 2011 when he drove for Hendrick Motorsports, and has an average finish of 13.3 in 48 starts in what is one of two home tracks for Hamlin whom he’s replacing.
Hamlin, of course will be missing a minimum of five races due to a serious back injury he sustained at the Auto Club Speedway last weekend. The day after he was released from the hospital, Hamlin was spotted working out, but with a back brace. Joe Gibbs Racing President, JD Gibbs, stated that Hamlin had a voice in making the decision of who would drive his car, but in the end, it came down to the sponsor as well as the drivers’ commitments.
The No. 11 car should be running up front as per usual. However, it could be a sign of things to come. Vickers will probably be in the No. 55 Toyota for each of the races besides Talladega. It’s going to be an audition to see if the team will go through with signing Vickers to drive the car full-time next year, replacing Martin. It’ll be a good audition for Vickers as he’ll be driving for Aaron’s who will likely remain as the sponsor for the No. 55 car next season.
Many fans wanted to see Sadler get his chance in the Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series vehicle, but they’ll probably be satisfied with the two races which could lead to more in the next few months. Besides that, he could be developing a potential re-branding with Mars Incorporated who he drove for back in 2003-2006