Joe Gibbs Racing has announced that Mark Martin will drive its No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series while Denny Hamlin recovers from a fracture of the first lumbar vertebra suffered in an accident at Fontana's Auto Club Speedway. Hamlin is expected to need six weeks for his back to heal, which would mean missing five Sprint Cup races, starting with Martinsville on April 7.
“We've been real fortunate to have never been in this situation with the need to find someone to fill in for an injured driver,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “A lot goes into a decision like this but we are really pleased to have someone of the character and caliber of Mark Martin to fill in while Denny is out. 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.”
Martin, 54, will make his first start for JGR in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway. Martin has made one previous appearance for JGR when he started in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and finished second.
“I'm happy to have this opportunity to help out JGR, FedEx and Denny,” said the veteran Martin. “Hopefully I can keep those guys up front and compete for wins while Denny heals up.”
Martin is scheduled to compete in 24 Sprint Cup races this year for for Michael Waltrip Racing in its No. 55 Toyota. Brian Vickers will drive the 55 at Martinsville, and likely would replace Martin in the remaining events where he will fill in for Hamlin.
“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,” said Hamlin. “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.”