Michael Waltrip Racing announced Monday that Brian Vickers will drive the team’s No. 55 Toyota in 12 of the 13 races remaining in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
The announcement follows the mutual decision by MWR and Aaron’s Inc. to grant Mark Martin an early release, enabling him to replace the injured Tony Stewart.
Vickers was originally scheduled to drive three of the remaining races in 2013. The announcement increases that schedule to 12. Michael Waltrip, MWR founder and co-owner, will race the No. 55 at Talladega on Oct. 20 as originally scheduled.
The move gives the 29-year-old Vickers an early start to his full-time role in the No. 55. Last week Aaron’s and MWR announced Vickers will drive the Aaron’s Dream Machine full-time beginning in 2014.
Waltrip said Martin achieved all of the goals both he and the team set when he began a 24-race schedule in the No. 55 in 2012.
“With Mark, we accomplished everything we hoped to when he came to this organization, which was bringing that winning confidence to the team, the experience to help elevate our program and ultimately find the full-time driver for the future who can race for a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship,” said Waltrip, a two-time Daytona 500 champion.
“Mark’s leadership the past two years has been so impactful that he has left a mark on this company that will be here as long as we race. This opportunity to help two Hall of Famers in Mark and Tony Stewart at the same time, while getting the opportunity to run the rest of the year with Brian makes sense for MWR. But nothing could happen without the support of Aaron’s, Toyota and the other MWR sponsors. Each of them saw the same benefits in such a move and helped make it happen. This is a truly win, win, win situation.”
In 2012 and 2013 with MWR, Martin earned five top-five finishes and five pole awards in 39 races. His work with teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. also played a role in MWR putting both drivers in NASCAR’s 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup as well as making both favorites to earn 2013 berths.
“I’m proud of the work we’ve done the last two seasons and I’m extremely thankful for the effort everyone on my team and at MWR put behind me,” said the 54-year-old Martin whose 870 Sprint Cup starts is the fifth most in NASCAR history. “I also want to thank Michael Waltrip and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman for giving me this opportunity. They are building a strong organization at MWR and one that’s going to be a force in NASCAR for years to come both on and off the track.”
Aaron’s thanked Martin for his work behind the wheel and with its customers and employees in the last two seasons. Aaron’s featured Waltrip and Martin in several national television commercials.
"Aaron's is supportive of the arrangement with Mark Martin agreeing to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing," said Ronald W. Allen, Aaron's Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. "We're energized about Vickers' availability to drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine for the remainder of the season. MWR talked about how this move would better position our team for 2014 while helping Stewart-Haas Racing so we believe this is the best of all possible outcomes for everyone. We appreciate everything Mark Martin has done for Aaron's over the last two years and wish him the best of luck in the future."
Vickers joined MWR in 2012 with plans to run a five-race schedule. That schedule increased as the performance improved and the Thomasville, N.C. native grew more comfortable with the organization. He won the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and posted four top-five finishes in 14 races with MWR.
“No one wants to see Tony out of the 14, but I am appreciative of the opportunity to get more seat time in the 55 as a result,” said Vickers who is also seeking a second Nationwide championship in 2013.
“I didn’t think things could get any better than last week’s announcement with Aaron's, but having a chance to run the rest of the 2013 season creates a tremendous opportunity for our team and we're excited that all of this came together the way it did. Mark gets to help out Tony and we get to start our program early in the No. 55. We’ve proven we can win races in a part time capacity so far in 2013 and I'm confident that spending more time working with the 55 crew will only to help improve our already strong performance to date, giving us the momentum needed to start the 2014 season off strong in Daytona.”
Vickers will race the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Saturday night in Bristol.