Deal for Martin to replace Hamlin blows up

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Associated Press

Posted on April 1, 2013 at 7:02 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 1 at 7:04 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — A deal to loan Mark Martin to Joe Gibbs Racing as a replacement driver for injured Denny Hamlin fell apart Friday, when Michael Waltrip Racing said Martin will fulfill his commitment to their team.

The announcement from MWR came roughly 24 hours after JGR said Martin will take over the No. 11 Toyota next weekend at Martinsville and drive the car until Hamlin returns from a fractured vertebra in his lower back. Hamlin is expected to miss at least five races.

It means Martin can now only drive Hamlin's car at Martinsville, a track not on his schedule. Brian Vickers, who drives for JGR in the Nationwide Series, was scheduled to drive Martin's car for MWR at Martinsville.

MWR said Martin will return to his regular car after Martinsville and "resume his previously scheduled run of events with MWR" for the rest of the season.

"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" said MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. "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."

It's believed a deal between the teams to swap Martin for Vickers in the Sprint Cup Series races had been completed, but JGR prematurely announced it before MWR sponsor Aaron's had given its approval. No reason has been given why Aaron's didn't approve the swap.

MWR has been eyeing Vickers as a potential replacement for Martin in the No. 55 Toyota, and Vickers is scheduled to run nine races for Martin this year. Because Vickers is seen as an option for that ride, MWR was in favor of loaning Martin to the Gibbs camp to get an extended look at Vickers in its equipment.

Instead, JGR must now put together a Plan B. The team made no immediate announcement as to who will drive for Hamlin beyond Martinsville, but JGR President J.D. Gibbs said Thursday the organization preferred just one driver for consistency sake.

Vickers had the commitment to MWR for the first race, and Elliott Sadler, the second driver in JGR's Nationwide Series camp, already has commitments to drive the Cup races at Kansas and Talladega in a fourth car for JGR.

It means Vickers will likely get the nod for Hamlin's car after Martinsville.

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