Mark Martin to fill in for Denny Hamlin at Joe Gibbs RacingBy Ashley McCubbin
Joe Gibbs Racing has announced that Mark Martin will fill in for the injured Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Camry.
“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,” J.D. Gibbs said.
In 858 starts, Martin has 40 wins, 271 top fives and 449 top 10s while finishing second in points multiple times. Martin has been running a limited schedule as of late for Michael Waltrip Racing.
“Hopefully I can keep those guys up front and compete for wins while Denny heals up,” Martin said.
In speaking of the decision process, J.D Gibbs said that he wanted to have just one person do all the races, rather than flipping it up, as the consistency would be helpful for the team. He also wanted to continue to show FedEx the team’s strength.
“Our goal is each and every week, whether it’s Denny or somebody else in there, we want to encourage FedEx and say this is why this program is valuable for their team,” Gibbs said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to make sure they have good experience week in and week out.”
While there is a Chase for the driver’s championship, there is also one for the owner’s championship, too.
It is expected that Brian Vickers will run the No. 55 for MWR in the races that Martin had been scheduled for. Martin was slated to run Texas, Kansas and Richmond in the No. 55 with Vickers slated for Martinsville and Michael Waltrip slatted for Talladega.
Martin had stated in the beginning of the year that the No. 55 would be a one-driver car next year with him not as the driver. With Vickers running a limited schedule for MWR and the success there, it looks like the ride will most likely be his in 2014.
Denny Hamlin will miss six weeks due to a L1 Compression Fracture to his back following his crash on the last lap at Auto Club Speedway. The compression fracture is located in his lower back and occurs when a vertebrae in the spine collapses. It is an injury that can occur in people who are healthy when they suffer a vertical shock to the area.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Hamlin and Joey Logano were running against each other for the lead in the final laps when Kyle Busch would sneak past them and take the win. However behind Busch, the pair continued to battle and made contact off of turn four. The resulting contact caused Logano to bounce off the wall and Hamlin to go flying into the inside wall. The wall that Hamlin hit had no safer barrier and caused the car to come up off the ground. Hamlin was credited with a 25th with Logano got third.
“He probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets,” Logano said after the race, unaware that Hamlin had been injured. Logano told USA Today later that he didn’t mean to hurt Hamlin and hoped that he’d feel better soon.
“When he realized Denny was hurt, it took a whole new turn,” Gibbs said. “He’s really, from what I’ve seen, hurt by that as well.”
J.D. Gibbs spoke with the media via a teleconference on Thursday morning, where he said Hamlin is “handling it well but I know he’s just frustrated.”
In speaking of the wreck, J.D. Gibbs said he felt Logano was just pushing it, trying to make a point. Gibbs added that they were just racing for the win and he didn’t feel that Logano meant to do it on purpose.
“He’s had some fast cars both those last couple of races,” Gibbs added. “I don’t know how much the week before played into it. … My guess, whoever it was [next to him], he was going to try to win that thing.”
NASCAR opted not to issue any penalties stemming from the race, and Gibbs said, “We’re comfortable in their decisions.”
The feud originally started at Bristol Motor Speedway when Hamlin made contact with Logano while battling for second, causing Logano to hit the wall. Logano, after the race, displayed his displeasure with Hamlin. The pair then continued their feud on twitter, sending messages back and forth.
Some have thought that the feud stemmed from when they were teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing. J.D. Gibbs was questioned about that, saying that there were some tense moments, but nothing major.
“There were a few things that popped up, like a Nationwide race here or there. There was some frustration,” Gibbs said. “I didn’t see anything major.
“I wasn’t in the middle of it. I think what we were hoping for, if Joey had that breakout streak, I think that would have all gone away for Denny. I don’t have direct knowledge to say what exactly was there. There was some tension at times, but overall nothing major.”
The pair have texted each other since, however Hamlin told the Associated Press that nothing was accomplished there.