Martin back at Martinsville for first time since 2011

Leave a comment

Mark Martin’s one-race substitute role for Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota at Joe Gibbs Racing marks his first start at Martinsville Speedway since 2011.

Brian Vickers stepped into Martin’s usual No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing at both Martinsville races a year ago.

In 48 prior starts at the 0.526-mile paper clip oval, Martin has two wins (April 1992, April 2000) and 12 top five finishes. He was runner-up at the fall 2010 race for Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin’s never been a particularly strong qualifier at Martinsville – he has started better than 12th there only once since 2000 – but staying out of trouble and ensuring he can get to the finish will be the key on Sunday before, incidentally, Vickers takes over while Hamlin is sidelined.

“Obviously, our primary concern is getting Denny healed up and back in the FedEx car when he’s ready,” said Darian Grubb, crew chief of the No. 11 Toyota. “We have to thank Mark (Martin) and Brian (Vickers) for filling in these next few weeks, and we believe that we can be just as competitive, run up front and win races. Our team is a strong, tight-knit group, and this will bring us even closer together. The goal is to move the No. 11 car up in the owner’s standings in the next few races, and when Denny returns, do everything in our power to get both him and our team in the Chase.”

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.”