Subbing for injured NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has become an unintended game of musical chairs.
Less than 24 hours after Joe Gibbs Racing announced veteran Mark Martin would sub for Hamlin until he returns to action, Michael Waltrip Racing issued a statement which said Martin would drive JGR’s No. 11 Toyota only in next weekend’s Sprint Cup race at Martinsville, Va.
JGR followed with a statement of its own indicating Brian Vickers will pick up driving duties in the No. 11 beginning with the April 14 race at Texas.
“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. We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville, however,” said JGR team president J.D. Gibbs.
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“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.”
Vickers currently drives JGR’s No. 20 Toyota in the Nationwide Series. He also runs a partial schedule in MWR’s No. 55 Toyota, as does Martin.
Hamlin suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra in a violent last-lap wreck in Sunday’s Cup race in Fontana, Calif. After contact with driver Joey Logano as the two raced for the win, Hamlin hit a wall not covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.
On Tuesday, JGR said Hamlin would miss at least six weeks – covering five races – while he allows the fracture to heal.
Vickers has 264 career Cup starts over 11 seasons with two wins, 24 top-five and 63 top-10 finishes. He has one Cup start with MWR this season.