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Mark Martin named to replace injured Tony Stewart for 12 of final 13 races

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013

Few drivers have gotten more opportunities in NASCAR than Mark Martin.

And Martin is appreciative of every single one.

Monday, Stewart-Haas Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing jointly announced Martin’s move to SHR for the remainder of the 2013 season to serve as substitute driver for Tony Stewart, who broke two bones in his right leg in a racing accident this month at a dirt track in Iowa.

Martin, 54, will drive 12 of 13 remaining Sprint Cup Series races this season in Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet, beginning with Saturday night’s Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. He will not compete in the Oct. 20 race at Talladega, Ala.

SHR will be the fourth Cup series organization Martin has worked with since 2009 and two of the positions have involved filling in for injured drivers. Martin substituted one race for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin this season.

“We’ve been good friends for quite some time with amazing respect, mutual respect,” Martin said of Stewart. “It’s an honor to be in the situation where we’re able to do this.

“I’m really, really sorry that it comes at the expense of Tony getting hurt.”

SHR confirmed Stewart will sit out the rest of the season.

Asked about Stewart’s prospects for 2014, SHR’s director of competition Greg Zipadelli said, “We expect a full recovery by Daytona or close to it.”

Nationwide Series regular Austin Dillon, who substituted for Stewart on Sunday at Michigan, will drive the No. 14 again at Talladega.

“Obviously, I’m disappointed to be out of the (car) for so long, but the team is in very good hands with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon,” Stewart said in a statement released by his team. “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.”

Martin’s immediate departure from MWR will allow Brian Vickers to kick-start his 2014 campaign in the No. 55 Toyota. Vickers and Martin have been sharing driving duties with the team for the past two seasons.

Vickers will compete in all of the remaining races in the No. 55, except for Talladega, where team co-owner Michael Waltrip had already planned to run.

“I love Tony Stewart, who he is and what he stands for, and I love Mark. He’s a special person, and I’m glad he’s going to be able to help those folks,” Waltrip said.

“That was the motivation, was just to be able to help Tony out and then of course we’re going to benefit as well, with getting our new driver, Brian Vickers, behind the wheel of our (No. 55) for the rest of 2013 and get ready for ’14.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @Jim_Utter

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