NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Mark Martin is starting fresh yet again this season, having moved to Michael Waltrip Racing for a part-time Sprint Cup schedule. His No. 55 Aaron's-backed Toyota would have been required to qualify its way into the field for the Daytona 500, but on Tuesday the team announced a deal with FAS Lane Racing under which MWR has secured the latter's points guarantee, thereby cinching a spot in the Feb. 26 race for the 53-year-old Martin. The deal follows a similar points swap obtained by Stewart-Haas Racing to guarantee Sprint Cup rookie Danica Patrick a Daytona 500 start.
The No. 32 car of FAS Lane Racing, owned by former Cup Series crew chief Frank Stoddard, finished 34th in owners' points last season, giving it secure starting positions for the first five races of the upcoming campaign. Those points have been transferred to Martin's car as part of a deal that, NASCAR.com reports, apparently makes FAS Lane minority owner Bill Jenkins a co-owner of Waltrip's No. 55.
"When Bill Jenkins permitted Frank Stoddard to take FAS Lane Racing in a new direction it created an opportunity for Bill and MWR to work together in 2012," Waltrip said in a statement. "These partnerships are mutually beneficial for everyone involved. For MWR, this partnership has everything to do with benefiting our loyal sponsors, our new drivers and the growth of our young organization."
MWR has expanded to three cars this season with Martin and Clint Bowyer joining Martin Truex Jr. Waltrip said he made the deal to repay his sponsors for their commitment to his team.
"Our motivation was to take care of them," Waltrip said. "Both Bill and MWR have worked closely with NASCAR to adhere to the guidelines. All of us owners understand how difficult it is and given the opportunity to take care of our partners – we all support each other."
Martin will drive the No. 55 in 25 Cup races this year, with owner driver Waltrip running the other events. Waltrip is running the Daytona 500 for satellite team Hillman Racing in a No. 40 Toyota, which will carry "Aaron's Dream Machine" backing.