Mark Martin will be in a different uniform this weekend. He was scheduled to be in his rocking chair that some media members gave him when he was supposed to retire a few years ago, but he’s going racing in a very different situation.
Martin, 54, has been given the duty of replacing Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs Racing. who had several drivers to choose from to replace Hamlin, who basically broke his back. JGR eventually chose Martin due to his veteran leadership among many other key qualities. Though Brian Vickers will be in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEX Toyota Camry in the races after Martinsville, it still gives Martin the opportunity to showcase his potential for driving a part-time car next season.
Michael Waltrip Racing is Martin’s current employer, but they basically swapped drivers for the next few races, wanting to see how Vickers will do in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series while running consecutive events. However, Martin is potentially looking for a new team next years as Vickers will likely take over his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing.
A possible fit at Joe Gibbs Racing is good for Martin. Since the team is seemingly searching for sponsorship for Elliott Sadler to drive a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car for the team, maybe Martin could fill in some races that they can’t find sponsorship for, giving both drivers a shot at top equipment while not running the full schedule.
Expect Martin to run rather competitively at Martinsville with Joe Gibbs Racing on Sunday. He may struggle as he’s working with Darian Grubb for the first time, even though Grubb has won a championship before. It’s going to take a full effort by all sides to make sure Martin doesn’t under perform.
Martin has just two wins at Martinsville in 48-starts at the paper clip shaped track. Martin hasn’t raced at Martinsville since 2011 where he ran full-time for Hendrick Motorsports where he finished 28th in October of that year. However, he also had a second place finish in a banged up car back in 2010.
Joseph Wolkin can be followed on Twitter at @JosephNASCAR and reached via e-mail at Joseph.Wolkin@gmail.com.