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Tony Stewart to miss rest of season
Out for the season with a broken leg, Tony Stewart turned to one of NASCAR’s most respected drivers to take over the No. 14.
At 54, Mark Martin is up for the challenge of taking the wheel for his good friend.
“Hopefully, we can turn the 14 car back over to Tony an even stronger organization than what it was when he stepped away and got injured,” Martin said. “That’s the thing that I really want to work hard to do, is when it’s all said and done with, I hope that they can look back and say they were glad that they had me as a part of the organization.”
Martin was released from his part-time schedule at Michael Waltrip Racing on Monday and will drive the No. 14 Chevrolet in 12 of the final 13 Sprint Cup races for Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart, a three-time Cup champion, will miss the rest of the season while he recovers from the broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway.
Martin entered 16 of 23 races as part of a shared ride in the No. 55 with Michael Waltrip at Brian Vickers at MWR. Vickers, who won this season at New Hampshire, will now drive the No. 55 Toyota for MWR in 12 of the final 13 races. He was originally scheduled to drive just three more times. Waltrip will race the No. 55 at Talladega as previously scheduled.
“My motivation for racing is not for points, it’s for racing,” Martin said. “I want to race, and I want to finish.”
Martin gets his chance after Stewart’s injury cost him his shot at driving for a fourth championship. Stewart had one win this season and was a solid contender to make the Chase for the Sprint Championship. Martin will be the third driver in the No. 14 this season. Max Papis drove the Toyota in Stewart’s absence at Watkins Glen. The No. 14 car is 13th in the owner standings.
“Obviously, I’m disappointed to be out,” Stewart said in a statement. “But the team is in very good hands with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon. Mark is someone I’ve looked up to my entire career and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Austin is a great young talent, and he showed that Sunday at Michigan.”
Stewart is expected to return in time for preseason testing in January 2014.
“We expect a full recovery by Daytona or close to it,” said Greg Zipadelli, competition director at Stewart-Haas Racing. “It may be able to be done earlier, it’s just not worth it. It’s a bad break to the leg, and he needs time to go through the process of healing, rehabilitation, all those things.”
Martin’s arrival was the only transaction SHR was ready to announce on a busy day of musical seats. Kurt Busch had reportedly been offered a deal to drive a fourth car next season for Stewart-Haas Racing, and is mulling that offer and others.
Stewart said last month the organization was not ready to expand to four cars in releasing Ryan Newman.
“Obviously, there’s options out there,” Zipadelli said. “We’re looking at everything that’s there. There is nothing done. Right now, we’re focused on (Newman), trying to win another race to make it into the Chase and getting Mark fitted up in this car and heading to Bristol to do the best job we can.”
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