UPDATE: Stewart out for rest of 2013, Martin, Dillon to take over No. 14


UPDATE: 3:00 p.m. EST:  Tony Stewart will be sidelined for the rest of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and Mark Martin will take over the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for 12 of the remaining 13 races. Austin Dillon, who filled in at Michigan this weekend, will race at Talladega on Oct. 20.

The team can still make the 12-team Chase for the Sprint Cup on entrant points; the No. 14 is currently 10 points behind 10th place.

A teleconference with Greg Zipadelli, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director, Martin and Michael Waltrip, Martin’s current team principal at Michael Waltrip Racing, is scheduled for 4 p.m. EST.

12:00 a.m. EST: Multiple outlets are now reporting confirmation from sources that Mark Martin will become the next interim driver for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

According to Jim Utter and David Scott of The Charlotte Observer, Martin will take over Stewart’s ride for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season if necessary, except for the Oct. 20 Chase race at Talladega Superspeedway. An announcement is expected to occur on Monday after the deal is finalized.

Martin was expected to run several more events this year with the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota that he shares with Waltrip and Brian Vickers. But, per Utter and Scott’s report, Vickers – who was recently named the full-time driver of the No. 55 starting next season – will likely take over those races as Martin heads to SHR.

Stewart, the three-time Cup champion, is out indefinitely after breaking two bones in his right leg in a sprint car crash earlier this month at Oskaloosa, Iowa. He was released from the hospital last weekend.

On Sunday at Michigan, Austin Dillon became the second driver to fill in for Stewart since his injury and finished 14th. Max Papis was in the No. 14 one week ago at Watkins Glen and took the checkers in 15th place there.

It bears noting that SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said on Friday at MIS that Dillon was likely to have “one more race at least” with the team in 2013. Taking that into consideration, Dillon may well be an option for the No. 14 at Talladega in October.

If Martin is to take over Stewart’s car, it wouldn’t be the first time he has served in a relief role this year. He drove for the injured Denny Hamlin at Martinsville in April, finishing 10th in Hamlin’s No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Martin had actually been announced as the sole replacement driver for Hamlin at the time, but that deal crumbled and he ultimately only filled in at Martinsville. Vickers took over Hamlin’s No. 11 starting at the next race in Texas and drove it until Hamlin returned to competition.

‘Game-changing’ multi-year agreement will take INDYCAR, NBC Sports ‘to the next level’


NEW YORK – As the fourth Nor’easter in three weeks bore down on the Big Apple, it was tough to spot people that were clearly in a good mood.

But Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, was clearly in a good mood.

On Wednesday morning at 10 am ET, we all found out why: NBC will become the exclusive home of the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, starting in 2019.

The new three-year deal not only makes “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” part of the network’s “Championship Season” – its collection of high-profile championship events from May to July – but also reaffirms NBC’s status as the home of motorsports television in the United States.

That status is something Miller doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s important people know that storytelling is in our DNA, and motorsports lends itself very well to storytelling,” Miller said as he, INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles and driver James Hinchcliffe made a snowy trek to the New York Stock Exchange to promote the deal on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street.”

“We’ve had great success with the second half of the entire NASCAR season, and then we’ve had half of the IndyCar package [since 2009] … But we never had the real meat of the series and that didn’t set anybody up for success.

“Having the entire package of IndyCar now – all 17 races, qualifying, practice, you name it – really sets IndyCar on a strong path and solidifies NBC’s position as the home of motorsports. I think it becomes a property much like the Premier League, the NHL, and even the Olympics and the Triple Crown. We have 100 percent of the media opportunity and we can put all those great assets behind it.”

With the storm no doubt keeping some traders home, the floor of the NYSE was relatively subdued. But that made it no less important to be at the heart of Wall Street. Miles and his team are pursuing a new title sponsor for the IndyCar Series to replace Verizon, which will fully focus its efforts in the series with the powerhouse Team Penske going forward in 2019.

The new deal – which includes 8 races per year on the NBC network (with the remaining races going to NBCSN), live streaming of all races, and a direct-to-consumer package with NBC Sports Gold – gave Miles plenty to push for any potential backers. As for Hinchcliffe, he held his own nicely in an interview that also explored IndyCar’s global ambitions, the impact of technology on the sport, and of course, his spin around the ballroom on “Dancing with the Stars.”

On the ride back to 30 Rock, Miles was confident that NBC can play a big role in attracting a sponsor that can help the series keep growing.

“With respect to our work in finding the best title sponsor, it’s really important – and this has not been talked about much – but we expect to work with hand in glove with NBC’s sales,” he explained. “We have the opportunity to create packages which are both broadcast sponsorship and series sponsorship, I think, in a way that doesn’t come along very often.

“Usually, the media deal and the sponsorship deal doesn’t align like this, so we’re really excited about the offering we’ll have and the approach to the market we can take.”

Should the partnership with NBC bear fruit on that front and others, it will only add to the upswing that the IndyCar Series has had in recent years.

Hinchcliffe has been a witness to that. He entered the series in 2011, when it was trying to find its footing after the sport’s reunification three years earlier. After 13 years of CART vs. the Indy Racing League, getting everything back under one roof was not a smooth process.

But fast-forward seven years, and things have changed for the better. TV ratings and digital viewers have gone up. Race scheduling has become more stable and enhanced with the return of traditional open-wheel markets. And this year’s debut of the universal aero kit aims to pump up the action on the track, while also giving the cars a cleaner, meaner look.

Now, with NBC all in, Hinchcliffe is bullish on his sport’s future.

“This is a game-changing thing for us,” he declared. “If you look at the last four or five years, we’ve seen a steady growth in pretty much every measureable metric that there is – in a time where, globally, motorsports is in a bit of a downturn.

“The fact that IndyCar was able to rally against a global dip in motorsports interest, attendance, sponsorship – it speaks volumes to what we have been doing and this is just gonna take us to that next level.”