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Vickers Joins Martin As Fill-Ins For Hamlin

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 28 2013

Mark Martin will share the 11 car with Brian Vickers as Denny Hamlin heals from back injury. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Mark Martin’s stint as substitute for injured NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin has been revised to a one-race deal.

Michael Waltrip Racing announced Friday that Martin will fill-in for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry only at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 7. Martin will then return to his No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota at Texas Motor Speedway for the Saturday night, April 13, event and resume his previously scheduled run with MWR for the remainder of the 2013 Cup season.

Meanwhile, JGR confirmed that Brian Vickers will take over behind the wheel of Hamlin’s No. 11 starting at TMS in Fort Worth.

It previously was announced that Martin would handle the driving duties indefinitely while Hamlin recovered from an L1 Compression Fracture suffered during an accident at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., on March 24.

Martin has made one previous appearance for JGR, a second-place NASCAR Nationwide Series finish last March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I think it’s great that a driver of Mark’s caliber is available to support our fellow Toyota team during this difficult time for them. We wish Denny a speedy recovery,” Michael Waltrip, MWR founder and co-owner, said in a statement from Cornelius, N.C. “Mark is a big part of our organization and is committed to our sponsors, especially Aaron’s and Toyota. We have a lot of goals yet to reach this year and we are very focused on accomplishing them.”

As previously announced, Vickers will drive MWR’s No. 55 Jet Edge Toyota at Martinsville.

“Obviously, having to find someone to fill-in for Denny is not an ideal situation to have to be in, and when you start a process like this you begin to look at the drivers that are not only available but also able to drive for your race team and manufacturer,” JGR president J.D. Gibbs said in a statement from Huntersville, N.C. “We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville, however. We’re real happy to have the opportunity to get Brian in our Cup cars and with him driving Nationwide for us we think we have some continuity there that is beneficial.

“We really appreciate everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota for working with us through this process. The good thing for us is that we have drivers the caliber of Mark and Brian to help fill-in until Denny comes back.”

Vickers currently is driving JGR’s No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He has recorded two top-10 finishes through the season’s first five races.

Vickers has 264 career Cup Series starts over his 11-year career at NASCAR’s top level. He has two wins, 24 top-five and 63 top-10 finishes. He has booked one start this season, having finished eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway for MWR. Last season, Vickers made eight starts for MWR with three top-five and five top-10 finishes.

Martin has forged one of the most distinguished careers in NASCAR history, having made his first Cup Series start in 1981. Over his 31 years in the sport, Martin has made 858 starts in the Cup Series with 40 wins, 271 top-five and 449 top-10 finishes. He has earned 56 poles. He also has 49 career wins in the Nationwide Series.

In 48 career starts at Martinsville Speedway Martin has two wins, 12 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes along with two poles. He has a career average finish of 13.3 at the famed short track known as “The Paperclip.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 28 2013
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