Tony Stewart out remainder of season; Mark Martin to fill-in
A broken right leg will keep Tony Stewart out for the remainder of the 2013 season, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Monday.
Replacing Stewart in the No. 14 car will be Mark Martin, who will start 12 of the final 13 races. Austin Dillon, who filled in this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway and finished 15th, will compete at Talladega. Martin's first race will be Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.
When searching for a relief driver, Martin was Stewart's first choice to replace him. The two are close friends and Stewart has deep respect for the driver who has a record five runner-up finishes in the year-end championship.
The opportunity to drive Stewart's car left Martin quite humbled.
"Sometimes I have a hard time understanding how Tony could possibly feel that way toward me when the guy is so amazing," Martin said. (He's) the modern-day A.J. Foyt. When I was growing up, A.J. drove anything and everything and was fast and won in everything he drove. And Tony is the guy today that really does that and is successful at it.
"We've been good friends for quite some time with amazing respect, mutual respect. It's an honor to be in the situation where we're able to do this."
Stewart broke his right tibia and fibula in a sprint car racing accident Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway. The team expects him to resume driving duties in time for January preseason testing at Daytona.
"It's a bad break to the leg, and he needs time to go through the process of healing, rehabilitation, all those things," Zipadelli said. "With Mark coming on board, I think it gives us the window to go to the end of the year and feel like we are doing our partners the best job we can to fill Tony's shoes."
Martin had been driving the No. 55 Toyota part-time for Michael Waltrip Racing. He was sharing the car with Brian Vickers, who will take over the ride full-time next season in a move that was announced last week. Vickers will now fill out the balance of the 2013 schedule with the exception of Talladega where Michael Waltrip will drive.
There was a great deal of cooperation involved as SHR is a Chevrolet team while MWR is a Toyota-backed organization.
"There were so many pieces to this puzzle, it was a lot more complicated than it looked at face value," Martin said. "But the reason it was able to be worked out is because everyone was able to win in this situation."
The jostling of drivers should benefit all parties involved.
SHR gets a veteran driver in Martin who is still competitive and can bring stability to the team in Stewart's absence. Instead of having Dillon run the bulk of the races while balancing competing for a championship in the Nationwide Series, SHR gets a driver whose sole focus will be on the No. 14 car.
As for MWR, putting Vickers in the No. 55 for the nine races Martin was scheduled to run will allows the team to get a jump on 2014.
"The job (Vickers has) done in the 55 on a limited basis has been really impressive," Waltrip said. "But mostly it will just get him up to speed on the mile‑and‑a‑half (tracks). 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."
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