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Martin insists he will drive the No. 5 in 2011
Mark Martin
Mark Martin says he has no intention of changing his plans to continue driving Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 car in 2011, and that he will race a Cup car in 2012, either in a full-time or part-time role with another organization.

Martin is in his second full season with Hendrick. He was originally scheduled to run a full season in 2009 and cut back to a partial schedule this year. The 51-year-old veteran signed a deal last September, however, to drive full-time through 2011, with sponsor GoDaddy.com.

But with Hendrick having signed Richard Petty Motorsports’ Kasey Kahne to take over the No. 5 ride starting in 2012, there has been speculation that Martin might opt to make 2010 his final full-time season to allow Kahne to take over the car in 2011.

Martin stared quizzically at reporters Friday at Texas Motor Speedway when asked if he will drive the No. 5 car next year.

“I don’t know why you had to ask that,” Martin said prior to practice for the Samsung Mobile 500. “If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be driving it. It’s not clear to me why you don’t understand.

“These guys wanted me to drive it for 2012. I came here [in 2009] and it was a little bit of a stretch to do one full-time season. I gave them three. It’s been the gift of my career. One of my biggest concerns has been who was going to be the successor. … I didn’t want to commit to [full-time in 2012] now and so I wanted to make sure Hendrick was set. And they are set in such an incredibly perfect scenario.”

As for 2012 and beyond, Martin says he expects to continue racing. Martin planned to retire after the 2006, but returned to race part-time in 2007 and 2008 for Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. He returned to full-time competition last year with Hendrick.

“I would appreciate it if no one would write anything about me retiring because I’m not going to retire,” Martin said. “I’m going to race in 2012. Don’t even talk about it. I’m racing in 2012. There will be an opportunity for me, I’m sure, that will be exciting and fun and that I can help people.

“I feel like I did that in the 01 [at Ginn Racing] and at DEI. And I felt like I feel like I helped the 5 team realize that they can win races and contend for a championship. … Three of the best years of my career Hendrick Motorsports has delivered to me and I’m damn grateful for it.”

Martin has 40 career Cup victories in 765 starts, and said “there’s nothing else in my life that I can show my passion for and occupy my time that I enjoy as much and I’m any good at.”

Martin becomes possibly the biggest free agent going into the 2012 season. He said he would even consider a scenario similar to that of owner/driver Tony Stewart, where a team owner gave Stewart half the team.

“I have absolutely no idea [about 2012] and I won’t be able to answer that question until late next year,” Martin said. “I’m going to do whatever I want to, and I’m not even going to know what I want to do for a while and I’m not going to know the scenarios that might be there.

“I’ve been in this sport long enough to know and have the confidence that really interesting opportunities come up. … I’ll explore driving and other things as well. I love this sport. I’m going to be in this sport for a long time.”

In September last year, Martin said he talked to Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth about possibly coming to Hendrick to replace him and they laughed and joked about it but the conversations never got serious. Martin then talked to the 30-year-old Kahne, who has 11 career victories and has made the Chase For The Sprint Cup twice in his career.

“I can’t believe Rick Hendrick scored this deal,” Martin said. “It is so perfect. … I didn’t know the negotiations were going on. I told Hendrick he needed to go do that.”  SceneDaily

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