It's not everyday that a team can find a substitute driver with Martin's credentials.
With Denny Hamlin on the sidelines with back injuries sustained at the Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, the Joe Gibbs Racing team needed to find a suitable replacement.
I’m happy to have this opportunity to help out JGR, FedEx and Denny.
Hamlin sustained an L1 compression fracture in the high-speed accident a week ago, and depending on how long it takes his back to mend will determine how long the Virginia native is on the sidelines. Except for the race at the Talladega Superspeedway, Martin will be driving the FedEx Toyota usually driven by Hamlin.
“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 will make his first start for JGR in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, April 7. 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.
As fans know, Martin has had one of the most distinguished careers in NASCAR history starting with the 1981 Sprint Cup Series season. In his 31 years of competition, he has made 858 starts and has amassed 40 wins, 271 top-five and 449 top-ten finishes. He has earned 56 pole awards as well, including one this season.
“I’m happy to have this opportunity to help out JGR, FedEx and Denny,” said Martin. “Hopefully I can keep those guys up front and compete for wins while Denny heals up.”
At Martinsville, Martin has 48 career starts, two wins and 25 top-10 finishes. He has a career average finish of 13.3 at the famed short track.
“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.”
After five races, Hamlin resides 10th in points with his best finish a third. His chances of qualifying for the Chase for the Sprint Cup are in jeopardy assuming he misses the next five races. However, he knows how to win races and he may find victories will be his best opportunity to make the coveted Chase field.