- Marty Smith, NASCAR
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Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 55 Toyota in each of the final four races of the Sprint Cup schedule, Michael Waltrip Racing announced Thursday.
Sadler will drive the car beginning next weekend at Martinsville Speedway, then close out the season at Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. Team owner Michael Waltrip will drive the car this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.
Sadler will drive the No. 55 car in a substitution role, in place of Brian Vickers. MWR announced Monday that Vickers would miss the rest of the season because of a blood clot in his right calf.
"First, I am already a teammate of Brian's at Joe Gibbs Racing and it is really tough to see him going through this again," Sadler in a statement. "Both of us have fought hard to get back in a position to win at NASCAR's highest level. I am honored to have this opportunity to drive for MWR because I know their cars are competitive. I want to thank Rob Kauffman, Michael and Aaron's for giving me this chance. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers will be for Brian to have a quick recovery."
Vickers missed the final 25 races of the 2010 Cup season after he nearly died due to blood clots around his lungs and legs. He ultimately underwent heart surgery before returning to NASCAR competition full-time in 2011.
In 2012, he began the year unemployed but later joined MWR on a part-time basis -- to drive the No. 55 car in a handful of races veteran Mark Martin did not wish to compete. Vickers performed well, and he retained the part-time opportunity this season, which in June produced his second career Sprint Cup victory, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and ultimately led MWR to name him the full-time driver of the No. 55 for 2014.
Vickers expects to return full-time in 2014.
Ironically, Vickers' part-time opportunity in the No. 55 was originally Sadler's, which makes the latest scenario a bit of a full-circle moment for Sadler. Sadler was a candidate -- and in fact agreed -- to drive the No. 55 on a part-time basis in 2012. But after he won the February Nationwide race, his then-owner Richard Childress disallowed the opportunity.
"Elliott has all the attributes we were looking for. He's experienced, familiar with Toyota, has a great attitude, plus he's a heck of a driver," Waltrip said in the statement. "We'll pair him with Scott Miller and the No. 55 guys and I know they'll have the Aaron's Dream Machine at the front of the field. I also want to thank everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota for letting us borrow Elliott for a few races."