Sponsor flap cuts Martin’s JGR role

Rumors of Mark Martin’s substitute role have been greatly exaggerated. It will now last only one race, after a series of conflicting announcements.

BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

Mark your calendars now and get ready to “reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!” Sprint Cup racing at Martinsville Speedway on FOX is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on April 7.

Joe Gibbs Racing originally reported on Thursday that Martin would be competing for Denny Hamlin while Hamlin recuperates from a lower-back compression fracture, suffered during a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

The sub-headline that read, “Veteran NASCAR Driver Mark Martin to Drive No. 11 FedEx Toyota Until Hamlin Returns” indicated that the affable 54-year-old veteran would sub throughout Hamlin’s recovery.

But apparently the deal was not cleared by Aaron’s, which is sponsoring Martin in the No. 55 this season and has enjoyed a relationship with Michael Waltrip since 2000.

JGR subsequently said that its Nationwide Series driver, Brian Vickers, will run the balance of the races as Hamlin’s fill-in — after Martin drives for JGR on April 7 at Martinsville. Hamlin is expected to be out six weeks.

“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,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing said in a release around 8 p.m. EST.

HISTORY LESSON

So, what’s had Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin so riled up at Bristol? Maybe it was this Twitter showdown after the Daytona 500

“We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville, however. 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.”

Approximately two hours earlier on Friday, MWR released a statement saying Martin “will fill in” for Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota Camry only at Martinsville.

Martin will then return to the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry at Texas Motor Speedway “and resume his previously scheduled run of events with MWR for the remainder of the 2013 Sprint Cup season,” MWR said.

“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,” said MWR founder and co-owner Waltrip in the statement.

“We wish Denny a speedy recovery. 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.”

The No. 11 Toyota is 11th in owner points. The No. 55 Toyota is currently 14th in the Sprint Cup owner points, with three drivers — Martin, Vickers and Waltrip — sharing driving duties. Waltrip is running the restrictor-plate tracks. Vickers is driving the No. 55 Toyota at Martinsville this weekend and will drive seven additional races this season. He also drove the car at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17.

Neither race was sponsored by Aaron’s. Aaron’s also has supported track entitlement for the Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway since 2002.

Sponsor flap cuts Martin’s JGR role
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Ellen takes on Johnson in go-kart race – and shows mad skills


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches

Joey Logano blocked Tony Stewart on the final restart, and Stewart wasn’t happy to say the least. Check out how he handled the situation after the race.

Ellen takes on Johnson in go-kart race – and shows mad skills
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‘Joey Logano Song’ finally offers Logano support


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches

Joey Logano blocked Tony Stewart on the final restart, and Stewart wasn’t happy to say the least. Check out how he handled the situation after the race.

‘Joey Logano Song’ finally offers Logano support
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QUALIFYING: Vilarino Struts Stuff At Nogaro

QUALIFYING: Vilarino Struts Stuff At Nogaro

Pole Win For Defending Champ In Season Opener

NOGARO, France – Marked men sometimes wither under the pressure, but Ander Vilarino is having none of that.

The defending Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series champion looks to be the class of the field in the season-opening Nogaro 200 at Circuit Paul Armagnac. Vilarino was the top performer in Saturday’s qualifying at the 14-turn, 2.260-mile road course with a time of 93.739 seconds for an average speed of 86.794 mph.

Vilarino, a native of San Sebastian, Spain, has won two consecutive poles dating back to last year’s finale at Le Mans (France) and has six in his series career. He launched his title-winning campaign in similar fashion a season ago in his No. 2 TFT/Banco Santander Chevrolet.

“Qualifying was rather particular as a few drops of rain fell when we were on the (false) grid,” he explained. “I then came in to iron out a small problem, and when I went back out with six minutes to go the track was dry. I put in a good lap and I’m happy as we’ve been quickest since the start of the weekend: I hope I’ll bag the two victories like last year.”

Rookie Frédéric Gabillon (No. 5 Rapido Racing by Still Ford), will start alongside Vilarino on the front row after posting a qualifying time of 94.210 seconds (86.360 mph). 

“We’ve had a good qualifying session,” he said. “The Rapido Racing by Still team did a great job to compensate for the small hiccups we ran into this morning. I still have to get to grips with the car’s handling as it’s different compared to what I’ve been used to up till now – the tires, in particular, but overall, it’s pretty positive and I hope I’ll be able to reward the team with a top-three finish tomorrow.” 

Switzerland’s Yann Zimmer (No. 64 Gonneau Racing by OverDrive) – another series rookie – completed the top three in his maiden qualifying session on the French circuit with a time of 94.252 seconds (86.322 mph).

“It all went off well although at the start of the session I was stuck in traffic,” noted. “After a few laps the track cleared and I was able to push. It was my first time on new tires and even if we still have work to do on the car we can be happy with the result. The weather changes a lot and that’s going to be the key to the race.”

Javier Villa and Anthony Gandon round out the top-five followed by Vincent Gonneau, Romain Ianetta, Carole Perrin, Freddy Nordström  and Nicolo Rocca to complete the top 10.

In the Open division, Aussie Josh Burdon (No. 18 Scorpus Racing/Forza Motorsport Chevrolet) and Anthony Gandon will share the front row.

The Open race gets underway on Sunday at 9:35 a.m. local time while the Elite event is scheduled for a 5 p.m. start. Both races will last 30 minutes. Monday’s schedule is of a similar nature.

QUALIFYING RESULTS

 

Vilarino Leads Euro-Racecar Into Year 2

Vilarino Leads Euro-Racecar Into Year 2

Green Flag On 2013 Set For This Weekend At Nogaro

Ander Vilarino had arrived early for his champions’ photo shoot in the vacant NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway last December, when he learned Carl Edwards was filming a Subway spot on the front stretch. The newly-crowned Euro-Racecar Series champion took the opportunity to walk over and introduce himself. He returned from meeting one of NASCAR’s biggest stars with a huge smile and another story to tell back home in an offseason filled with them.

From sharing the stage at the NASCAR Hall of Fame with all of NASCAR’s touring series champions to competing in the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway, the 32-year-old from San Sebastian, Spain, thoroughly enjoyed the rewards of being the first Euro-Racecar Series champion in history under the NASCAR banner.

For Vilarino, these experiences aren’t just memories, they’re motivation.

“This was the most important championship I have won in my life,” said Vilarino. “I’m very driven to try to win the championship again. Last year, I was extremely focused about winning it as it was the first season under the NASCAR banner in Europe. I wanted to be the first.

“Now it is different. I want to come back to Charlotte and in Daytona. This is in my mindset. All the TFT-Banco Santander team did an incredible job during the winter and I have to give them very good results to pay them back.”

Test No. 1 comes this weekend in southwestern France as the second season of NASCAR’s European series opens at with the Nogaro 200 at Circuit Paul Armagnac.

The 14-turn, 2.260-mile road course is familiar grounds for Vilarino. Last year, he kicked off his championship run by setting fast time in practice, winning the pole position, and then sweeping the Sprint and Endurances races on the weekend. It gave him the points lead he would never relinquish all season.

NOGARO WEEKEND SCHEDULE | 2013 SCHEDULE

“This track is a very technical one,” said Vilarino, who began stock-car racing in 2011 and won six of the 12 events last year. “It’s very important to have a car well balanced in braking. This is the most important thing. If it doesn’t move too much, you can brake late and enter the corner faster. Then you have a chance to overtake, particularly in the main straight, alongside the Aerodrome.

“It’s not a track with lots of momentum, but the first corner of the race is always very hot, because you have different lines, as you enter on the left, followed by two right corners. We will see action there as there are always contact.”

Vilarino is already off to a fast start. He was the quickest in practice Friday – nearly a second faster than teammate Anthony Gandon.

Qualifying for the Nogaro 200 will be Saturday, with the first race Sunday afternoon and the second race Monday afternoon.

“The weather conditions expected this weekend should change a lot, with rain, no rain and rain again,” said Vilarino. “I think the key of this weekend will be to anticipate those conditions and do the correct choice of set-up and tires at every moment.

“You can start the race on a very wet track, but if it starts drying, the guy with wet tires who will chose the dry set-up can be the winner, and not the one with wet tyres and set-up. It’s gonna be very interesting and a bit of lottery if the weather is like this. But this is the same for everybody and the season is long.”

Friday’s practice ran under dry conditions.

The race weekends will feature a slightly different format than the one Vilarino won the championship under last year.

The Euro-Racecar Series is split into two classes – Elite Division and Open Division. The former, which Vilarino won, features the top drivers in the series, while the latter consists more of semi-professional drivers. In 2012, both divisions had shorter “Sprint” races, and then competed paired together in a pro-am format in longer “Endurance” races. The Elite Division drivers received points from the Endurance race based on where they were running when they got out of the car and handed it over to their Open driver.

This year, the Endurance races are gone. The Elite Division drivers will compete in two races of identical length on a race weekend. The seven venues will provide a total of 14 points races for the drivers to compete in, culminating with the championship weekend Oct. 12-13 at LeMans’ famed Circuit Bugatti. The French course also held the 2012 championship round.

ABOUT EURO-RACECAR SERIES: SERIES INFOSPECS

The series will also return to England’s Brands Hatch as the headliner for American Speedfest in June, as well as Tours Speedway in France in July. The Tours race will be held once again on a temporary oval just outside Paris. Last year, American Ben Kennedy, the great grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., made history by becoming the first winner of a NASCAR points-race winner on a European oval.

The series has added France’s Circuit de Dijon-Prenois in May and Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale di Monza in September to the schedule, as well as a non-points stop at Spain’s MotorLand Aragón on Sept. 1.

“I’m very excited with the new season,” said Jerome Galpin, the founder and promoter of the Euro-Racecar Series. “In my opinion, the level in each championship is higher than ever. Everybody will be very motivated to take the championship from Ander, but I think with what he experienced in Charlotte as well as in Daytona he will be also very motivated to make it happen again.

“In both divisions, we’ve got a lot of talented drivers coming from France, Europe and all over the world.”

More than 50 drivers from 11 different countries have already filed entries for the season.

The list of challengers to Vilarino’s title is long, led by Javier Villa, Romain Iannetta, Frédéric Gabillon, Willy Boucenna and Yann Zimmer.

The 25-year-old Villa, from Colunga, Spain, finished third in points last year and picked up a win at England’s Brands Hatch. This year, he joined Scorpus Racing, which won the 2012 Open Division title with Simon Escallier.

“The biggest thing for me this year is staying with the same team from the first to the last race,” said Villa. “When you start working with the same people, you always can develop the car, the team, myself personally, and you can improve at each race.

“We planned everything for the weekend and this is very important. I’m really confident we can do it to catch Ander Vilarino of the top of the podium.”

Boucenna finished fifth overall in points and second to Villa in the Trophée Junior, which is given to the top driver 25-years-old and younger. While Boucenna won the 2009 Euro-Racecar Series title, it was prior to the series’ sanctioning with NASCAR.

Vilarino got to experience last year all the perks that go along with being a NASCAR champion, and rest assured, he isn’t the only driver using that to drive their championship aspirations.

2012_nascar_champion_car_ander-vilarino

Ander Vilarino won six times in 2012 en route to the first Euro-Racecar Series championship under the NASCAR banner. Euro-Racecar Series

Sponsor flap cuts Martin’s JGR role

Rumors of Mark Martin’s substitute role have been greatly exaggerated. It will now last only one race, after a series of conflicting announcements.

BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

Mark your calendars now and get ready to “reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!” Sprint Cup racing at Martinsville Speedway on FOX is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on April 7.

Joe Gibbs Racing originally reported on Thursday that Martin would be competing for Denny Hamlin while Hamlin recuperates from a lower-back compression fracture, suffered during a last-lap crash at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

The sub-headline that read, “Veteran NASCAR Driver Mark Martin to Drive No. 11 FedEx Toyota Until Hamlin Returns” indicated that the affable 54-year-old veteran would sub throughout Hamlin’s recovery.

But apparently the deal was not cleared by Aaron’s, which is sponsoring Martin in the No. 55 this season and has enjoyed a relationship with Michael Waltrip since 2000.

JGR subsequently said that its Nationwide Series driver, Brian Vickers, will run the balance of the races as Hamlin’s fill-in — after Martin drives for JGR on April 7 at Martinsville. Hamlin is expected to be out six weeks.

“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,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing said in a release around 8 p.m. EST.

HISTORY LESSON

So, what’s had Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin so riled up at Bristol? Maybe it was this Twitter showdown after the Daytona 500

“We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville, however. 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.”

Approximately two hours earlier on Friday, MWR released a statement saying Martin “will fill in” for Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota Camry only at Martinsville.

Martin will then return to the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota Camry at Texas Motor Speedway “and resume his previously scheduled run of events with MWR for the remainder of the 2013 Sprint Cup season,” MWR said.

“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,” said MWR founder and co-owner Waltrip in the statement.

“We wish Denny a speedy recovery. 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.”

The No. 11 Toyota is 11th in owner points. The No. 55 Toyota is currently 14th in the Sprint Cup owner points, with three drivers — Martin, Vickers and Waltrip — sharing driving duties. Waltrip is running the restrictor-plate tracks. Vickers is driving the No. 55 Toyota at Martinsville this weekend and will drive seven additional races this season. He also drove the car at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 17.

Neither race was sponsored by Aaron’s. Aaron’s also has supported track entitlement for the Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway since 2002.

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‘Joey Logano Song’ finally offers Logano support


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches


Stewart And Logano Exchange Words, Throw Punches

Joey Logano blocked Tony Stewart on the final restart, and Stewart wasn’t happy to say the least. Check out how he handled the situation after the race.

‘Joey Logano Song’ finally offers Logano support
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PRACTICE: Vilarino Off To Fast Start

PRACTICE: Vilarino Off To Fast Start

Defending Champ Tops Charts At Nogaro

NOGARO, France – Defending Euro-Racecar NASCAR Touring Series champion Ander Vilarino got off to a fast start on Friday in Nogaro 200 practice at Circuit Paul Armagnac.

Vilarino, hailing from Donostia, Spain, made his way around the 14-turn, 2.260-mile road course behind the wheel of his No. 2 TFT/Banco Santander Chevrolet in 94.622 seconds for an average speed of 85.984 mph which was more than a second faster than the second-place car of his teammate Anthony Gandon (No. 7 TFT/E. Leclerc Chevrolet) with a time of 95.739 seconds (84.981 mph).

The anticipated cloud cover never materialized and the cars took to the track under sunny conditions. The times, however, were skewed since competitors used tires of varying conditions for the first practice session of the new season.

“It all went off very well and the team did a great job,” said Vilarino. “There was a lot of traffic out there, (but) it was the same for everybody. I’m happy to have started the season like this, but I can’t explain the gap that separated me from my rivals this morning. Maybe it was because my tires were not so worn.”

Gandon, who his making his series debut, didn’t take long to get the feel of his Chevy Camaro.

“I didn’t think I’d be so close to Ander’s times so soon,” he said. “I have to admit that we’re racing on home turf and I know this track like the back of my hand. The team’s been fine-tuning the car over the past several months so it’s not surprising it’s so quick. We’ll have to see what happens in qualifying.”

Frederic Gabillon (No. 5 Rapido Racing by Still Ford) was third on the charts at 96.454 seconds (84.351 mph).

Switzerland’s Yann Zimmer (No. 64 Gonneau Racing by OverDrive) participated in a pair of Euro-Racecar Series a season ago posted the fourth-quickest lap of the day at 96.656 seconds (84.254 mph) had never driven the French race course before today.

“It’s cool to be back racing. It was a bit complicated this morning as the track was still damp and I had to learn the layout,” he said. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow if it rains, but we found a good setup for dry conditions.” 

Sailesh Bolisetti from India is another rookie and the first Indian to compete in the series not only had to learn the track, but also had to get accustomed to the car and echoed the feelings of many stock-car first timers.

“I’ve driven a lot in rear-wheel drive cars but this one is very specific,” he stated. “It isn’t easy to handle but great fun. I really enjoyed myself.”

A final practice session is scheduled for Saturday at 11:30 a.m. local time with Elite qualifying at 4:25 p.m. followed by Open qualifying at 4:45 p.m. Thirty-minute races are on the docket for Sunday and Monday.

PRACTICE RESULTS

 

FRIDAY FEATURE: Veteran Presence

FRIDAY FEATURE: Veteran Presence

Turner Scott’s Greci Has Big Hand In Driver Development

His drivers have won a Daytona 500, NASCAR Nationwide Series championships, multiple NASCAR K&N Pro Series East titles and races, and yet he remains virtually anonymous to the those who follow the sport from outside the garages.

Mike Greci shies away from the spotlight, but it’s impossible to ignore his work with NASCAR’s brightest up-and-coming talent.

“I’ve been so fortunate to work with some of the greatest people there are,” said Greci, who is now the competition director for Turner Scott Motorsports’ development program, including three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East teams and two NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model teams.

“I could write a book about how many great kids and people I’ve worked with. You’re only as good as the people you’re surrounded by, and I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of great people.”

Name some of the sport’s biggest risers, and Greci has had a hand in helping most of them. He was with Martin Truex Jr. before Truex made it all the way to a regular gig in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and he served as the crew chief nearly a decade later when Truex’s brother, Ryan Truex, won back-to-back K&N Pro Series East in 2009-2010. He was at DEI when Trevor Bayne – the 2011 Daytona 500 champion – was running a full season with the organization in the K&N Pro Series. Greci led Michael Waltrip Racing when Travis Pastrana made the transition to NASCAR racing through the K&N Pro Series, and he was the crew chief for Danica Patrick’s Nationwide Series effort at Daytona International Speedway this February.

Sprinkled all around those gigs, there have been Modifieds tied to Greci’s Connecticut roots, two other K&N Pro Series East (then known as the Busch North Series) titles with Mike Stefanik in the late 1990s, and two different fill-in stints as a Cup crew chief with the No. 1 team and Truex Jr., and work with Andy Santerre’s blossoming Nationwide Series career.

Greci has had plenty of opportunities to move up the ladder, but each time he’s taken a look at what he really enjoys about stock car racing.

“I enjoy it here at this level,” Greci said. “I enjoy the enthusiasm the kids come in with. I’ve been Cup racing. I’ve been Nationwide racing. But this is where I want to be.

“Kids don’t have any bad habits. They haven’t learned everything yet, and that makes it a good teaching position to be in for me. These kids don’t come in with mindset that they know how to do it all already. When we walked into Bristol a couple of weeks ago, all five of our drivers had never even seen the place before.”

Greci is no longer a hands-on crew chief, like he was most recently with Ryan Truex, Brett Moffitt or Pastrana through the end of last season. He’s now the competition director at TSM, with five crew chiefs under him, including those for Dylan Kwasniewski, Kenzie Ruston and Austin Dyne in the K&N series.

After a career spent helping fine-tune drivers – on and off the track – for what’s ahead of them in a career of NASCAR racing, Greci is ready to help build Turner Scott Motorsports into an organization that can both develop its own talent behind the wheel and then offer that talent a place to race in either the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series or the Nationwide Series.

“When we decided to build this program, we knew it would be expensive the first year, Greci said. “We had four bare walls and just the equipment we’d bought from Waltrip. Now we’ve got three K&N teams, two Late Model teams and we’re doing it on our own. To have these kids moving up next year or the year after, that’s how I’m going to say this is a successful program.

“When it gets to that point that they’ve learned all they can learn here, it’s all about moving up. It’s about graduating to the next level. That’s what dictates success for us.”

The team has started out on the right foot, for certain.

Kwasniewski is the reigning NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion after two seasons with Gene Price Motorsports, and Greci said the team has already joked about this being just a “finishing school” for Kwasniewski. Ruston is as polished a young female racer as Greci said he’s ever encountered, noting that she made an instant impression on him in their very first meeting. Dyne, last year’s K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year, has also shown that he’s ready to adapt quickly to the East series.

Late Model drivers Ben Rhodes – who won one of two qualifying races for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Battle At The Beach in Daytona in February – and Brandon Jones are both “going to be phenomenal,” according to Greci. Those two will also compete on a part-time basis in the K&N Pro Series East this year.

And with Greci’s helping hand, it’s pretty clear that all five drivers have endless potential. Kwasniewski won the season opener at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago.

“I don’t have to be a crew chief anymore. I’m really liking this side of things,” Greci said. “I never envisioned being in charge of five full race teams. We have a beautiful facility here, and I’m already looking to 2014. I’m looking at programs for the next series. I think we’re successful, and we’re doing it the right way.

“That’s what I’m going to base it on – that’s what’s going to be ‘success’ to me. It’s about having a little part in getting these kids moving on. Look at Martin, Trevor, Ryan, and hopefully continue looking at some of the ones we have here now. I want to see them keep moving along and getting better.”

Greci led Travis Pastrana’s transition from action sports to the world of NASCAR. Getty Images for NASCAR

Martin for Hamlin: Now one race only

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 its team.

BOOGITY! BOOGITY! BOOGITY!

Mark your calendars now and get ready to “reach up and pull those belts down tight one more time!” Sprint Cup racing at Martinsville Speedway on FOX is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on April 7.

When the dust settled for both teams, Brian Vickers wound up as Hamlin’s replacement driver for at least four races. He was already scheduled to drive Martin’s car for MWR at Martinsville next week and will keep that commitment, with Martin driving Hamlin’s car.

Then Martin will go back to MWR, and Vickers will drive Hamlin’s car until he’s medically cleared to return from a fractured vertebra in his lower back.

The about-face came down from MWR roughly 24 hours after JGR said Martin will take over the No. 11 Toyota until Hamlin returns. He’s out at least five races.

”We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville,” J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, said in a Friday night statement.

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.

HOT IN CALIFORNIA

Check out all the action as the NASCAR circuit takes over Fontana.

Instead, JGR turned to a Plan B, which is Vickers, a day after Gibbs said the team wanted to use 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.

”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,” Gibbs said. ”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.”

Martin for Hamlin: Now one race only
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