With Denny Hamlin out of action for six weeks with a compression fracture in his back, Joe Gibbs Racing is considering Mark Martin to fill his seat.
Martin is just one option Joe Gibbs Racing is considering, the team disclosed in a teleconference Thursday. The veteran driver currently drives a part-time schedule for another Toyota team, Michael Waltrip Racing.
"We're kind of talking through everything," said JGR team president J.D. Gibbs. "There are several guys; we're trying to figure out what would be the best fit."
Initially, it was thought that JGR would choose between its pair of Nationwide Series drivers, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers. However, both drivers have existing conflicts in place that would preclude them from being in the No. 11 car for the duration of Hamlin's absence.
Vickers is set to drive the No. 55 for MWR at Martinsville, while Sadler is scheduled to run a fourth JGR car at Kansas and Talladega with sponsorship already in place.
In the best-case scenario, JGR would prefer to have one driver fill in and not rotate through a cast of drivers in the five races Hamlin is expected to miss.
"We rather would have someone do all those races," Gibbs said. "That consistency will be real helpful."
One option for JGR is to free Martin from his contract with MWR by offering the services of Vickers, who while running Nationwide full-time for JGR, also drives a limited Cup schedule for MWR in the races that Martin does not run.
With Martin stepping away from the 55 team next season, Vickers is considered the future replacement for Martin.
The earliest Hamlin is expected to be back in the car is May 11 at Darlington. Until then, JGR's goal is for the No. 11 team to be competitive and remain in contention for the owner's championship.
"Our goal each and every week, whether it's Denny or somebody else in there, we want to encourage FedEx and say this is why this program is valuable for their team," Gibbs said. "We're going to do whatever we can to make sure they have good experience week in and week out."
As for Hamlin's health, Gibbs said the driver is "frustrated" and wants to get back in the car as quickly as possible. He did not rule out the notion that at some point Hamlin could return to start the car to accrue points and then give way to a relief driver.
In 2010, Hamlin competed with a torn ACL during the first part of the year and underwent reconstructive surgery during the season and never missed a race. He went on that year to win eight races and finish second to Jimmie Johnson in the championship.
Hamlin was hurt in a last-lap crash with Joey Logano at Fontana, and the two have had a budding rivalry with one another since Daytona when Hamlin questioned Logano's decision-making in the waning laps of the Daytona 500.
Prior to this season, Logano and Hamlin were teammates at JGR, and while there was some minor friction between the two, Gibbs classified the disagreements as "nothing major."
Despite the feud between the drivers, Gibbs doesn't feel Logano intentionally wrecked Hamlin, and that two were simply racing hard for the victory.
"My personal take is that Joey was really trying to make a point," Gibbs said. "He was pushing it, ‘Hey, I am going to win this thing or else.'
"I think when he realized Denny was hurt it took a whole new turn. From what I've seen, (Logano) is really hurt by that as well."