JGR tabs Mark Martin to sub for injured Denny Hamlin

Jared Wickerham

Mark Martin will drive the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 car in place of the injured Denny Hamlin.

As Denny Hamlin recovers from a back injury, it will be Mark Martin driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 car, the team announced Thursday night.

Earlier Thursday, J.D. Gibbs, president of JGR, said the team wanted to fill Hamlin's seat with a driver who was a capable of being competitive and keeping the 11 team in contention for the owner's title.

Although he has driven a limited schedule since the beginning of the 2012 season, Martin more than fits that profile, having won five poles and posting 11 top 10s in his last 28 starts. The veteran driver also has a prior relationship with the organization, making a Nationwide Series start for the team last year at Las Vegas where he finished in the runner-up position.

In 858 career starts in NASCAR's top series, Martin has 40 victories and has finished runner-up in the championship standings on five occasions.

"I'm happy to have this opportunity to help out JGR, FedEx and Denny," Martin said in a statement. "Hopefully I can keep those guys up front and compete for wins while Denny heals up."

When it was announced that Hamlin would miss a minimum of five races, it was originally thought that JGR would tab either Elliott Sadler or Brian Vickers as Hamlin's replacement. Both drive full-time for the team in Nationwide.

But to give the 11 team consistency, JGR preferred to have just one driver behind the wheel, and both Sadler and Vickers already have preexisting commitments.

Sadler will run a fourth JGR entry at Kansas and Talladega, while Vickers is committed to running Martinsville for Michael Waltrip Racing.

It is expected that Vickers will pick up the Texas, Kansas and Richmond races that Martin was originally supposed to drive for MWR.

Hamlin suffered an L1 Compression Fracture in a last-lap crash Sunday at Fontana, and is out for the next five races. He is likely to return May 11 at Darlington.

"I just hate not being able to be in the car right now, but I really appreciate Mark being able to fill in for me," Hamlin said. "Like everyone in NASCAR, I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mark and I know he will keep that FedEx Camry up front until I get back behind the wheel."

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