MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The finish was nowhere near indicative of the effort it took to get there.
Mark Martin was adamant there was no way he was going to fill Denny Hamlin’s shoes at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, a track where Hamlin has excelled in his Sprint Cup Series career.
While substituting for Hamlin as he recovers from a broken vertebra in his back, Martin hoped to secure a good finish in Sunday’s STP 500.
He did, finishing 10th in Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota. How Martin wound up there was a testament not only to him but also Hamlin’s team.
“It wasn’t that great of a result – we were capable of a little bit better, but we just kept stumping our toe on Friday and then we had a setback when we were about to get into position,” Martin said.
“I did not fill Denny Hamlin’s shoes, I can tell you that much. He is the master,” Martin said. “I enjoyed this opportunity – it was fun.”
Martin had difficulty in qualifying Friday and started 35th. He ran into trouble early on in the race when his car was damaged from a wreck on Lap 180 that collected 11 cars.
The team also had a problem on a pit stop when the jackman dropped the car before the left-front tire was secured. Martin started to drive off, but had to back up so the team could finish.
Hamlin spent the weekend in Martinsville and sat atop the pit box during the race. He tried to offer advice to Martin on occasion.
After the race, Hamlin posted the following message to his Twitter account: “Proud of Mark Martin today. He did my team well today. Jimmie Johnson (race winner) won’t have it that easy in the fall I promise. Congrats to them.”
Martin’s fill-in stint was just for one race. Brian Vickers will pick up driver substitution duties beginning next weekend at Texas and continue until Hamlin can return to the car.