Vickers Takes Over MWR '55'
August 19, 2013 | 3:15 P.M. EST
Michael Waltrip Racing has granted Mark Martin his release and will put Brian Vickers in its No. 55 Sprint Cup Series Toyota for 12 of the remaining 13 races in 2013. (Photo: Getty Images)
CORNELIUS, N.C. – Michael Waltrip Racing has granted Mark Martin his release and will put Brian Vickers in its No. 55 Sprint Cup Series Toyota for 12 of the remaining 13 races in 2013.
Martin was granted an early release from his contract, enabling him to replace the injured Tony Stewart as interim driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.
Vickers was originally scheduled to drive in three of the remaining races this season. Michael Waltrip, MWR founder and co-owner, will drive the "Aaron's Dream Machine" at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 20 as originally planned.
The move gives the 29-year-old Vickers an early start to his full-time role in the "55." Just last week, the team announced he would run the full schedule in the car beginning in 2014.
Waltrip said Vickers will benefit by running on some of the bigger tracks. He's mainly run short tracks since joining the team last year and running the races Martin didn't.
"Mostly it'll just get him up to speed on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs,'' Waltrip said of Vickers. "He hasn't run any of those and there's a lot of those in the schedule, so it'll just give him a chance to get familiar with what it's going to take to run consistently and fast on all those tracks.
"It's a really big deal for our organization to be able to get some more races in with Brian and the team as we prepare for 2014.''
In making Monday's announcement, Waltrip said Martin achieved all of the goals both he and the team set when he joined the organization for the 2012 season.
"With Mark, we accomplished everything we hoped to, 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 Sprint Cup championship," Waltrip said.
"He's left a mark on this company that will be here as long as we race. 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."
In 2012 and 2013, 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 NASCAR Sprint Cup.
"I’m proud of the work we’ve done the last two seasons, and thankful for the effort everyone on my team and at MWR put behind me," Martin said. "I want to thank Michael Waltrip and (co-owner) Rob Kauffman for giving me this opportunity. They're building a strong organization and one that’s going to be a force in NASCAR for years to come, both on and off the track."
"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 Brian Vickers' availability to drive the car for the remainder of the season. We appreciate everything Mark Martin has done for Aaron's over the last two years and wish him the best of luck."
Vickers joined MWR in 2012 with plans to run a five-race schedule. That increased as the performance improved and he won a race last month in New Hampshire.
"No one wants to see Tony out of the '14,' but I'm appreciative of the opportunity to get more seat time in the '55' as a result," said Vickers, who is also seeking a second Nationwide Series championship in 2013 while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing. "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. 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 help improve our already strong performance to date, giving us the momentum needed to start the 2014 season off strong in Daytona."
With this situation settled, Waltrip said the team can focus on signing crew chief Rodney Childers to a contract extension.
"It's a great team, and we would like to see it stay exactly as it is now, but we're not down that road yet,'' Waltrip said.