Tony Stewart absence from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition allows Mark Martin, Austin Dillon, Max Papis to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing
By Jeff Hammond FoxSports
So it became official on Monday with the Stewart-Haas Racing announcement that Tony Stewart is out for the rest of the season and will go through the rehabilitation of his broken right leg. The other news that came with that announcement is that veteran driver Mark Martin will run 12 of the remaining 13 races for SHR. Austin Dillon will take over the No. 14 duties at Talladega.
A lot of people are wondering how hard of a challenge this will be for the teams and the new drivers. Honestly, I don’t think it will be a challenge. The beauty of what Mark Martin has been doing these last few years with the part-time driving situation gives him the experience of jumping in and just racing. I think it will be an easy transition for Mark and, quite honestly, probably excites him to a certain degree to work with new folks and a new organization.
It would be an understatement to say that Mark will bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. My buddy Kenny Wallace said it the best: “everybody still wants to have Mark Martin drive for them.” He brings a “never-say-die” attitude to this team. They can sit on the pole and they can win a race or races yet this season. When he gets behind the wheel, Mark is all business just like he has always been.
It’s just a huge plus for Stewart-Haas Racing to find someone of Mark’s driving caliber to fill that seat even for a short time. To me, they honestly couldn’t have found a better replacement. It’s really is a win-win for everyone involved. Tony Stewart said Mark was his first choice to handle the driving duties the rest of the season, so it doesn’t get any better than that.
I’m not kidding when I say they can still win this year. Here’s the really, really interesting storyline that everyone is going to be following. If by chance Mark were to win in the next three races before the Chase field is set, then that gives the No. 14 car a chance to win the owners championship.
Make sure you understand me correctly: Stewart-Haas Racing cannot win the driver championship because Tony is done for the year. However, with another win in the next three races, that No. 14 is primed for a Wild Card spot, and it would give them a chance at winning the owner championship.
A win in these last three races before the Chase field is set by the No. 14 is really going to have people sit up and be on their edge of their seats. This could turn into as wild and bizarre of a championship Chase that we’ve ever seen in the history of NASCAR.
I am truly amazed at actually how much good was able to be pulled out of something as devastating as Tony’s season ending wreck. Let me be clear: Tony is parked and on the sidelines for the rest of the season, and that flat out sucks.
With that said, look at all the dominos that have fallen into place, and it’s a positive for other folks. Both Max Papis and young Austin Dillon get time in the No. 14 car. With Mark coming over to take over the No. 14, it allows Brian Vickers and crew chief Rodney Vickers an opportunity to get a jump-start on 2014 in the No. 55 car.
Those two can work together and gain some incredible momentum moving forward now for the rest of the season. They are under no pressure whatsoever. They’ve actually already won together this year and if they do it again before the season is out, well that is just a blessing.
On top of all this, it gives Tony Stewart enough time to rest up, heal and go through the painful rehabilitation that is ahead of him without the pressure of being rushed. I, for one, am a big believer in #Smokewillrise that is on his race car. I can’t wait to see him back behind the wheel of the No. 14 car at Daytona.