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Mark Martin-JGR deal falls through

Mark Martin will replace Denny Hamlin in the Joe Gibbs Racing #11 for one race only, with Brian Vickers taking over the seat for the rest of Hamlin's absence.
Joe Gibbs Racing has been forced to reverse its previously announced plan to put veteran Cup racer Mark Martin in their #11 Cup car as a replacement for the injured Denny Hamlin.

The JGR team had originally announced the deal late on Thursday, but on Friday evening was forced to issue a new press release admitting that the previous statement had been "premature", and that Martin would actually only fill in for Hamlin at the next scheduled event at Martinsville Speedway on April 7.

"We were a bit premature in determining Mark's status past Martinsville," said JGR president JD Gibbs of the apparent collapse of the deal to borrow Martin from Michael Waltrip Racing.

"For some reason, before we got it all figured out, a press release was put out," team owner-driver Michael Waltrip said later.

Instead JGR will now turn to their current Nationwide Series regular driver Brian Vickers to take over the #11 post-Martinsville, the team revealed.

"We're real happy to have the opportunity to get Brian in our Cup cars and with him driving Nationwide for us we think we have some continuity there that is beneficial," said Gibbs. "The good thing for us is that we have drivers the calibre of Mark and Brian to help fill in until Denny comes back."

The situation regarding Martin's status in the #11 had been thrown into confusion a few hours earlier, when MWR - Martin's regular Cup team - issued a statement bluntly contradicting Thursday's JGR announcement about a longer-term secondment of the 31-season veteran.

"Michael Waltrip Racing announced today that Mark Martin will fill in for injured Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin in the #11 Toyota Camry next weekend at Martinsville Speedway," the MWR press release read, before going on to state unequivocally: "Martin will return to the #55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry at Texas Motor Speedway on April 13 and resume his previously scheduled run of events with MWR for the remainder of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint cup season."

It's not clear why JGR's hoped-for longer-term deal for Martin's services didn't work out. It's possible that the sponsors for the #55 car, US retailer Aaron's, did not wish to sign off on a change of driver; or it could be that either JGR or MWR were unhappy about sharing set-up secrets with a driver working for a potential major rival team in the Championship Chase play-offs.



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