Friday, October 26, 2012
No. 55 Cup car remains shared ride
By David Newton
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Brian Vickers will continue to share the No. 55 Toyota with Mark Martin and team owner Michael Waltrip in 2013 with the hope it leads to a full-time Sprint Cup ride in 2014.
Martin will drive in 24 points races, plus the Budweiser Shootout in Daytona and All-Star Race in Charlotte. Vickers will drive in nine races and Waltrip in three (at Daytona in July and the two Talladega races).
The three have teamed to keep the 55 14th in owner's points this season with seven top-5s and 14 top-10s. Four of the top-5s and nine of the top-10s have come from Martin, who at age 53 is 25th in points despite missing 11 races.
Vickers, in negotiations to drive a full-time Nationwide Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing next year, has four top-10s in seven starts. He said there are no guarantees Martin will retire after next season and he'll get the No. 55 full-time in 2014.
"(Am I) in the wings? Yes," he said. "I don't think I could be any closer to the wing. There's no contractual obligation to 2014, but that's my goal and that's their goal."
Vickers said he had other opportunities to possibly drive full-time next year, but opted to stay with Michael Waltrip Racing because of the chemistry he has developed with crew chief Rodney Childers and the opportunity to win races.
"For me, staying with MWR was a conscious decision to be in the best position to win races," Vickers said.
Waltrip said Martin and Vickers helped MWR teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer earn the organization's first two Chase berths.
"We made a lot of changes before the season and one of the smartest ones we made was bringing Mark Martin on board," Waltrip said. "In our meetings at the shop, when he starts to speak everyone gets real quiet. He's like E.F. Hutton. When Mark talks, everyone listens.
"It is amazing that we have a driver of Brian's talent available to drive again. He is a race-winning, Chase-caliber driver and we are so happy to have him back. We gave Brian a difficult assignment in 2012 and not only has he thrived in the role, but he has made the entire team better."