Mark Martin to run full-time for Hendrick in 2010
Mark Martin doesn't want to drive race cars forever. But as long as he can compete at the highest level, he can't bring himself to walk away from NASCAR.
Martin said Wednesday he'll run a full season next year, his 22nd in NASCAR. He's in the first year of a two-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports, but 2010 was fluid and Martin had initially thought he'd run just a partial schedule next season.
But he's proven this season to still be at the top of his profession, ending a 97-race winless streak with last month's victory at Phoenix. At 50 years old, he became the third-oldest winner in NASCAR history.
"I'm in the best condition of my life," Martin said. "I'm recharged, and I'm motivated. Going to the racetrack every weekend is still really fun, and that's the key. There's more gas in my tank."
Martin will stay in the No. 5 Chevrolet, but sponsorship for next season has not been solidified.
Jeff Burton, Martin's friend and former teammate at Roush Racing, called the move "awesome."
"He's a great inspiration to a lot of drivers — young, old, middle-aged drivers," Burton told FOXSports.com's Lee Spencer. "He just gets up on the wheel and drives. He does it the right way. Our sport is better off having him in it. I can tell you that."
After two seasons of partial schedules, Martin was talked into coming back this year for a full schedule by car owner Rick Hendrick, who offered the best equipment in NASCAR. Given an opportunity to compete for wins — and possibly the Cup championship that has eluded Martin over his storied career — Martin agreed.
The second year of the contract was supposed to be a partial schedule, possibly shared with Hendrick developmental driver Brad Keselowski. That part of the contract was amended this week to give Martin the entire year in the car.