Mark Martin will step in to replace the injured Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
The 54-year-old Martin, who has been driving part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing, was announced today as Hamlin’s substitute by JGR.
Hamlin will be out for at least six weeks as he recovers from a compression fracture in his L1 vertebrae, which he suffered in a last-lap wreck on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.
“Obviously, we’re not exactly sure how long [Hamlin’s recovery] 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,” said JGR president J.D. Gibbs in a conference call on Thursday.
As for the injured Hamlin, he said in a statement that while he hated not being in his car, he was glad that Martin was available to help.
“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,” he said.
According to Jeff Gluck of USA Today, Martin was already committed to drive MWR’s No. 55 Toyota in some of the races during Hamlin’s expected recovery period. Martinsville was not on that list, as Brian Vickers had been slated to race the No. 55 at the next race on April 7 at Martinsville Speedway.
MWR has not officially announced who will drive in Martin’s absence, but the team is believed to be evaluating Vickers as a potential replacement for Martin in 2014. If that’s true, then it’d make sense for MWR to give Vickers more seat time in the No. 55.