Mark Martin and Brian Vickers to sub for the injured Denny Hamlin

by Ashley McCubbin On Sat, Mar. 30, 2013

Photo Credit: Simon Scoggins

Contrary to reports on Thursday, Mark Martin will only be driving the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry next weekend at Martinsville, before returning to his normal ride, the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, for Texas.

On Thursday, JGR released a statement stating that Martin would replace Hamlin in all five races in which Hamlin is currently scheduled to miss at this time. However, they retracted that announcement today.

“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 obviously begin to look at the drivers that are not only available but also able to drive for your race team and manufacturer. We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville however,” J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said in the team release. “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.”

“I think it is 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,” MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip said in his team’s press release. “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.”

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.”

Currently, Brian Vickers is driving for Joe Gibbs in the Nationwide Series and has two top fives in five starts thus far this season. Vickers has previous Cup experience, scoring two wins, 24 top fives and 63 top 10s in 264 Cup starts. Vickers’ has had a rocky cup career though, after being sidelined for most of the 2010 season with health problems and then Red Bull Racing closing in 2011.

Last season, Vickers ran a part-time schedule for Michael Waltrip Racing, scoring five top 10s in eight starts. He has made one start this year, which was a finish of eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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. A lot of people are pointing to Vickers to take over the car.

Hamlin’s injury occured during the final laps while racing rival Joey Logano for the lead. 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.

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