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Martin fine with open-ended future
Mark Martin’s plans for 2014 are far from set.
As of Friday afternoon, Martin’s camp had yet to hear from Earnhardt Ganassi Racing principals regarding the No. 42 Chevy, which will be vacated at the end of the year.
Martin’s opportunities for the rest of the season also remain in flux. He has been contacted by Stewart-Haas Racing regarding filling in for the injured Tony Stewart. However, “There are a lot of complications that go along with that,” Martin said.
The 54-year-old Martin has a personal-services contract with Toyota. He’s also under contract to Aaron’s and Michael Waltrip Racing for 11 of the 14 remaining races.
Friday morning at Michigan Speedway, SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said he hopes to decide on a permanent replacement — or replacements — for Stewart “in the next three to four days.”
“Before we get to Bristol, everything will be ironed out for the rest of the year,” Zipadelli said. “We’ve had hurdles that we’ve had to get through, so we are looking at that and we’re working on that. It will be two drivers probably the rest of the year ... to try to build some chemistry and get the best finishes we can.
“We’re still 11th in owners points. That’s a big deal, and we can look at that, and that’s kind of what we’re focused on right now. We are working on that; it’s just too early to talk about.”
Austin Dillon will drive Stewart’s No. 14 Chevy this weekend and could be available for additional races. With the announcement that Brian Vickers will be the full-time driver for MWR’s No. 55 Toyota in 2014, there could be more seat time for Vickers this season in that car.
But just as it’s a “big deal” for SHR to maintain owners points for the No. 14 Chevy, the No. 55 Toyota is in a similar position since it’s 18th in points and Vickers won at New Hampshire. It’s possible both teams could compete for a wild-card position in the owner’s Chase.
“As of right now, I’m driving the Aaron’s Dream Machine and I’m tickled to death,” Martin said. “I love (crew chief) Rodney Childers and everybody at MWR, and that’s what we’re doing.”
When contemplating next year’s plans, Martin’s reasons for remaining mum are reasonable. With the silly-season shuffle starting — including the news that Juan Pablo Montoya won’t be back at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing — Martin, who has 40 career wins and posted his 56th career pole earlier this season at Phoenix, is biding his time.
“The reason I haven’t talked about 2014 is because I felt the landscape was probably going to change, and it’s starting to change rapidly,” Martin said. “I promise, no one has talked to me or anyone on my side from Ganassi. I know it’s really churning out there, but there hasn’t been the first discussion about that.
“I’m still kind of waiting, because I have a lot of racing to go yet this year. I’m not like these other guys that have to have a job. I don’t have to have one. A lot of times when you wait till the last hour, that’s when some of the coolest stuff comes up. When you commit in August, you might not be able to do the coolest thing in the world. So, I’m kind of waiting for the landscape to change and see.”
It remains a goal of Martin’s to win a race for MWR. Two weeks ago, he was “under the impression” he would just be hanging out with the company and Toyota. Although he realizes that “someday” he’ll have to face transitioning outside of the race car, Martin doesn’t expect it to be next year.
So would a part-time mentoring role whether with Kyle Larson at EGR or perhaps Trevor Bayne at Roush Fenway Racing appeal to Martin?
“For 40 years, you want to use what you’ve learned and what you’ve built to benefit (others),” Martin said. “I’ve used it to my benefit until now, and it’s really fun and gratifying to use that to benefit someone else that’s coming along.”
One thing is for certain, Martin “will be involved in NASCAR racing” — just not full-time in the Sprint Cup Series.
“That won’t happen,” Martin insisted. “I wouldn’t do it for the world. That won’t happen.”