Gibbs racing turns to Mark Martin to fill Hamlin’s spot

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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.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”