Elliott Sadler to drive 5 Cup races

AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Elliott Sadler will drive five Sprint Cup races in the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, team officials announced Saturday.

Sadler's first race will be March 18 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Sadler's other four events include both Martinsville races, July 15 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and the Bristol night race on Aug. 25.

"This is an awesome opportunity," Sadler said. "We've been talking about this for a while, but wanted to get through Daytona before we announced it to everyone. If I had to pick a place on the circuit to start, then Bristol would be my first choice. And Martinsville is in my home state of Virginia. I can't thank Michael enough for this."

Sadler, 36, raced 12 seasons in Cup. He now races full-time in the Nationwide Series for Richard Childress Racing, finishing the 2011 season as the championship runner-up to Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

"Elliott has the experience and attitude we were looking for," Waltrip said. "We believe Elliott will do a great job."

Mark Martin is driving the No. 55 Toyota in 24 Cup races this season, including this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. MWR officials plan to announce a driver for the two road course events at a later date.

Terry Blount is a senior writer for ESPN.com.