Stewart out for season; Mark Martin to drive No. 14 Chevy



Stewart out for season; Mark Martin to drive No. 14 Chevy

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 19 August 2013 21:14
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Stewart out for season; Mark Martin to drive No. 14 Chevy Getty Images

Mark Martin will drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season -- with the exception of the October 20 race at Talladega -- as owner/driver Tony Stewart recuperates from injuries suffered in a Sprint Car accident Aug. 5 in Iowa, SHR announced Monday afternoon.

Martin's move to the No. 14 car paves the way for Brian Vickers to drive the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in 12 of the final 13 races, as Vickers prepares for his first full season with the team in 2014.

Austin Dillon, who finished 14th Sunday at Michigan in his first trip in the No. 14 car, will compete in the Talladega race in Stewart's absence. Stewart broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in the Aug. 5 accident.

"After consulting with Tony's doctors and speaking with Tony, we agreed it was best for him to focus on his recovery," said Greg Zipadelli, SHR's competition director. "For the No. 14 team, our focus is on positioning them for a run at the owner championship.

"Mark Martin and Austin Dillon give us the best opportunity to do that, and we certainly appreciate Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing for making Mark and Austin available to us."

MWR announced Monday that Vickers would drive the No. 55 Toyota in all remaining events save Talladega, where team owner Michael Waltrip is slated to race. Vickers already was scheduled to compete at Bristol on Saturday, as well as at New Hampshire and Martinsville.

To get Martin behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevy, MWR, sponsor Aaron's and Toyota all had to sign off on the deal. Those were some of the "complications" Martin referenced Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

"It sounds logical, but there's a lot of complications that go with that," Martin said. "I've got contracts… We've got Toyota involved, we've got Aaron's, we've got Michael Waltrip. I'm tickled to death to be driving a hot rod, and I'll do what everybody wants."

MWR and Aaron's gave Martin an early release to facilitate his relief role for Stewart.

"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," Waltrip said in a release announcing the moves. "This opportunity to help two (future) 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."

With Stewart-Haas purchasing its engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports, Martin's jump to that car puts him back in Hendrick equipment. Driving for HMS in 2009, Martin enjoyed his most productive season behind the wheel since 1998, winning five races, seven poles and finishing second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to teammate Jimmie Johnson.

The move also puts an experienced veteran in the No. 14, which is locked in a tight race for a spot in the owners' Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In addition, it puts Martin in the unusual position of competing against the car he shared with Vickers and team owner Michael Waltrip for one of the 12 spots in the owners' Chase.

"Obviously, I'm disappointed to be out of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy for so long, but the team is in very good hands with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon," Stewart said in a team release. "Mark is someone I've looked up to my entire career, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.

"Austin is a great young talent, and he showed that Sunday at Michigan. Greg Zipadelli, Steve Addington (crew chief) and everybody at SHR supports them 100 percent. This isn't a situation anyone wanted, but we're going to make the best of it. In the meantime, my focus is on getting healthy and getting back into my (car)."

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Steven B. Wilson

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