Martin ready to go for Stewart-Haas tonight at Bristol

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A whirlwind week for Mark Martin is set to reach its climax tonight at Bristol Motor Speedway, as he makes his first start for Stewart-Haas Racing while filling in for the injured Tony Stewart.

With Stewart out for the remainder of the Sprint Cup season after breaking his right leg in a recent sprint car accident, it’s fallen on Martin to drive the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet for all but one of the remaining races on the 2013 calendar (Austin Dillon will drive the No. 14 at Talladega in October).

But while the 54-year-old Martin holds a well-deserved place as one of NASCAR’s most respected veterans, he still indicated on Friday at Bristol that he had a few rookie-like jitters before going about the task of replacing Stewart.

“Like I said before, I’m a little bit nervous about today, because I feel like it is an extraordinary challenge,” he said. “Because it’s not like…I’ve switched around a lot, but usually, you have a couple of months and a test or two to get together. Man, I see a lot of faces I’m not sure I can put names to just yet.”

But SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli appeared to have the utmost confidence in Martin, who also noted that he was “honored and humbled” to have his latest opportunity.

“For us, it’s a homerun,” said Zipadelli. “Obviously, he has big shoes to fill to take Tony’s seat and there are not many guys in the garage that could do that.

“We all agreed that if there was any way to get Mark Martin, he was the guy that would do us the best job and be able to do that.”

Luckily for SHR, things have worked out that way after a long process that, by Martin’s estimation, truly got started when Brian Vickers won earlier this summer at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Vickers has since been announced as next year’s full-time driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota that he, Waltrip and Martin were splitting races in.

Martin was to drive nine more races this year in the No. 55, but with his jump to SHR, Vickers has taken on those events in addition to the three he himself already had remaining.

“Once they got that done, signed and announced, you know, then it kind of opened the door where it was a win/win for everybody,” Martin mused.

“It’s a win for Brian, it’s a win for Michael Waltrip Racing, and it’s a win for myself to have the opportunity to be a small part of Stewart-Haas.”

Martin will start 11th on tonight’s grid.

McLaren unveils 2018 F1 car, the MCL33

Photo: Getty Images
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McLaren F1 Team became the latest to launch their 2018 challenger on Friday, taking the covers off their new MCL33 chassis early on Friday morning.

McLaren endured a difficult 2017 season of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with their partnership with Honda eventually dissolving after a troublesome power unit saw them plagued by unreliability and low power.

A switch to Renault power units is expected to see them get an uptick in form, and the MCL33 chassis itself is actually an evolution on last year’s MCL32. Still, the team highlighted areas to improve upon, and aims for a return to prominence in 2018.

“The McLaren team was created by a brave pioneer, and has had bravery at its core ever since. Whether it’s been with brave drivers, brave leaders or brave fortune, this team has always fought back. And we definitely view 2018 as the year when McLaren will move closer to the front, fighting teams and drivers as we improve our fortunes,” said Zak Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology Group.

Brown also highlighted the car’s new papaya orange livery, a throwback to some of the most popular color schemes that have adorned McLaren entrants in a variety of disciplines. Brown indicated that this came about from requests of fans who wanted to see such a livery return to the McLaren marque.

“Our return to a papaya orange livery for this year wasn’t simply an emotional decision; it demonstrates that we are listening to our fans, building deeper engagement with them and the Formula 1 community as a whole. We want McLaren to earn respect on and off the track, and this felt like a good starting point. We want to show everyone what makes this team special, whether that’s our fans or our partners – there’s room for more on our journey.”

The team’s racing director Eric Boullier expressed optimism about the team’s potential for 2018, but also acknowledged the season will be sure to see its fair share of challenges.

“I think the whole team feels proud of this car,” he asserted. “The design, engineering and aerodynamic departments have done an incredible job delivering a new car with a new power unit in an extremely short timeframe. We never took the easy route or looked to shortcut a process or a solution; and the result is a car that is neat and well-resolved.

“That said, we are under no illusions that it will be difficult to splinter the hegemony at the front; and that the midfield will be full of well-funded, experienced outfits with plenty to prove. We are humble about the challenge ahead, but feel we’ve prepared well, have a solid package that we can build upon and exploit as the season progresses, and have two excellent drivers who will make the difference in races.”

The MCL33 took to the track on Friday for filming at a test track in Spain, and will be run in anger for the first time when testing begins next week at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

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