Mark Martin will be stepping into the #11 FedEx Toyota this weekend at the Martinsville Speedway in a one off race to help the team while normal driver Denny Hamlin recovers from injuries suffered in the last race in Fontana.
Martin spoke to the media Friday about the relief effort and what it means to get behind the wheel of a car that has been a proven winner at Martinsville.
“I’ve seen that car on the race track, followed it on the race track with Denny (Hamlin) behind the wheel and tried to figure out and mimic how he was doing what he was doing, especially at Richmond (International Raceway) — here as well — and Denny is a master at being able to make the rear tires last and get good speed at the same time, so it’s a challenge for me. It’s exciting for me to work with all new people, spotter and all. It has me up on my toes paying attention and trying to get in sync with a whole group of people and new faces, but that’s a good thing. That challenge is something that motivates me to make sure I’m engaged 100 percent,” Martin told reporters.
For the weekend, Martin was starting with Hamlin’s previous set-up for the track. An interesting move since both drivers have different driving styles.
“Well, it’s a good place to start. You have to realize that the tire has changed and the Gen-6 rules in the rear of the car are quite different than they were a year ago, so we will — everyone will probably have to adjust to some of those changes. It’s an excellent place to start for all of us and we will collaborate on what the car feels like and what I think it needs. I have had a long conversation with Denny about what he feels and what he thinks the way he does, runs this race track and I’ve told him the things, my experiences and what I think and they line up closely. 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. That’s what we’ll do. We’re going to put our best foot forward and work hard and I’m definitely listening and Denny tweeted he looked forward to learning something from me and it’s like it may be the other way around here. He’s one of the masters at this race track. We’ll work together and try to get the best result we can,” explained Martin.
Hamlin will be at the track, it was thought to be only on Sunday, but he was there Friday to assist the team. Ironically, his team has a garage stall next to Joey Logano’s team, the very driver who’s contact led to Hamlin being sidelined.
“He was very forthcoming with how he approaches practice and how he approaches the race as far as lines he drives and whatnot. That information is there and it’s a two-way street and I will do anything that I can to help this team and represent Denny well as well. I’ll do everything that I can. I’ll do my very best,” said Martin.
Martin is again showing what a class act he is by stepping in and giving 110% for a team he will most likely not drive for again. He’ll start deep in the field Sunday, but look for him to get to the front quickly.