Joe Gibbs Racing has announced that Brian Vickers will step into the injured Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota starting at Texas Motor Speedway on Apr. 13.
Mark Martin will drive Hamlin’s car at the next Sprint Cup race at Martinsville Speedway on Apr. 7. Martin had been announced Thursday as the replacement driver for Hamlin, but today, Michael Waltrip Racing announced that Martin would only replace Hamlin for Martinsville and then return to his duties as driver of its No. 55 Toyota at Texas.
Vickers will drive MWR’s No. 55 at Martinsville in Martin’s absence.
“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,” JGR president J.D. Gibbs said in a team statement.
“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.”
Vickers currently drives one of JGR’s cars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and has posted two Top-10 finishes there this season. He has collected 264 Sprint Cup starts in his career, with two victories to his credit; he finished eighth for MWR earlier this month in the Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. The 2017 season behind the wheel was better for Ed Carpenter than either of the last two years, but still wasn’t ideal results-wise in his six oval starts.
Ed Carpenter, No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
- 2016: 25th Place (5 Starts), Best Finish 18th, Best Start 5th, 0 Top-5, 0 Top-10, 1 Lap Led, 11.2 Avg. Start, 21.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 22nd Place (6 Starts), Best Finish 7th, Best Start 2nd, 0 Top-5, 1 Top-10, 5 Laps Led, 11.3 Avg. Start, 12.3 Avg. Finish
Ed Carpenter’s 2017 season was largely one of frustration, both behind the wheel and as a team owner.
While a respectable turnaround in results occurred – Carpenter finished between seventh and 12th in five of his six oval races after a nightmare season of ending 18th or worse in each of his 2016 starts – this is still not what he sets out to strive for in the races he does. Lost opportunities loomed larger than any official result he or the Ed Carpenter Racing team achieved.
Carpenter and new teammate JR Hildebrand, in for the departed Josef Newgarden, dominated preseason testing in Phoenix but Hildebrand could only muster third in the race, Carpenter a season-best seventh. Then at Indianapolis, Carpenter (second) and Hildebrand (sixth) flew the flag for Chevrolet in qualifying and practice pace, but they fell to 11th and 16th on race day owing to a front-wing change and late-race penalty for passing before a restart.
Both drivers got collected in incidents at Texas. Hildebrand qualified and finished a season-best second in Iowa but that result came only after the ECR crew rebuilt his car from a crash in practice. Then Carpenter had a practice crash in Pocono and despite a rapid rebuild, they missed the clock to qualify by mere minutes and were unable to do so. Carpenter’s spin on a slick Gateway track at the start of the race sent him over Will Power’s nose assembly in one of the scarier looking incidents of the year, although fortunately he was OK.
In a similar refrain as we often write, it’s not that Carpenter’s lost his ability to drive and he remains one of the series’ savviest and smartest people in the paddock. There have been a lot of extenuating circumstances of late, and it almost felt as though this team had “empty nest” components. Since September, Carpenter has had to secure his team’s future with a move away from its Speedway, Ind. shop, line up Spencer Pigot for a full-time drive replacing Hildebrand in the No. 21 car, find a new road/street course driver in the No. 20 car, and manage both driving and owning himself.