Martin seeks input replacing Hamlin
As one of NASCAR’s most respected drivers, Mark Martin has doled out plenty of advice.
But he’s not afraid to seek some, either, even if it comes from a much younger driver.
Such has been the case this week as he prepares to replace the injured Denny Hamlin in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Toyota on a track – Martinsville (Va.) – where Hamlin’s success in 15 races dwarfs what Martin has accomplished in 48.
Hamlin, who broke a vertebra in a crash in California two weeks ago and will be sidelined for at least five races, has won four times on the oldest, trickiest oval in NASCAR’s premier series.
Martin has been to Victory Lane here, too, but just twice in those 48 career starts, and not since 2000.
Hamlin and Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, each with seven victories on the paper-clip-shaped oval, are always viewed as the cars to beat at Martinsville.
Martinsville is such a challenge that Martin skipped both races here last season, and in 2007 and 2008.
This weekend, Martin started with the car setup Hamlin typically uses, and spent Friday working with the team during practice to tweak it to his liking. He also had a long talk with Hamlin about his approach to the 0.526-mile circuit.
“They are some things that I’m going to be looking for that I haven’t as hard in the past that he suggested and we will work together to try to get the best result that we can,” the veteran driver said.
After this weekend, Brian Vickers will replace Hamlin in the car.
Johnson wins pole
Jimmie Johnson has won the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway with a track record.
Johnson made his fastest lap around the 0.526-mile oval at 98.400 mph Friday. He broke the track record of 98.083 mph held by Tony Stewart. It is the 30th pole position of Johnson’s career, and his third in 23 starts at Martinsville.
JR Motorsports says Jeffrey Earnhardt will drive the team’s No. 5 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series race in Richmond later this month. Earnhardt is the nephew of team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. … Helio Castroneves paced the first day of IndyCar practice at Barber Motorsports Park, setting the stage for what could be more domination by the Penske Racing team. Castroneves ran a 1:08.5540 around the 17-turn, 2.38-mile permanent road course in his Penske Chevrolet.
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