Michael Waltrip’s No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota has done an excellent job of carrying the flag for part-time driver lineups over the last two years, while Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. have raced full-time in the other two cars.
But as for the part-time No. 55, Waltrip was quick to give credit to both Brian Vickers, his new full-time driver for 2014, and Mark Martin, who helped lay the foundation with his setup work and mentorship to the team.
“We wouldn’t be sitting here if Mark Martin didn’t join the team,” Waltrip said at today’s introductory news conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. “I got to run a few races but we needed a guy for a few other ones and that was Brian Vickers. We loved Brian’s enthusiasm and how he wanted to race that car. It wasn’t about money for him then, and it’s not now. It’s abut him being a champion driver. Mark has given so much to our team.”
Vickers, too, paid tribute to Martin’s role.
“To have a mentorship with Mark was great. I only wish it would have happened 10 years ago when I was a rookie!” Vickers said. “I wish we didn’t have to wait so long! There’s still a lot to learn through the process.”
For Vickers, just being able to race again was half the battle after his blood clots diagnosed sidelined him in 2010.
“Yeah, when the doctor told me I’d never race again,” was Vickers’ answer to a question when asked if he thought his career was over. “There’s been a lot of ups and downs through the whole process. When I brought up racing, my bedside manner wasn’t the best. But fortunately we learned it was a fluke event. I can’t take credit for it. Just never give up.”