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Thursday, May 7, 2009

NASCAR’s worst-kept secret is official: Martin’s back in 2010

It was written all over his face. He didn’t have to say a word.

The worst-kept secret in NASCAR was revealed Wednesday when Mark Martin announced he will be back full-time in 2010 in the #5, instead of part-time as was originally announced last year.

It had never been spoken, but just one look at the grin Martin has been sporting all year was all anyone needed to see to know what Mark’s plans were for 2010.

Anyone who was surprised today is missing a few screws up top, because after his big win at Phoenix and his solid runs all year, wild horses couldn’t drag Mark Martin away from Cup racing next year.

Martin is invigorated, and wants to win races and contend for titles. Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, he’ll have that opportunity both this year and in 2010.
"It means a lot to drive the #5 Chevy for Rick and for Hendrick Motorsports," he said.

The feeling is mutual.
"Week in and week out, Mark continues to be one of the best race car drivers in the world," Hendrick said. "He's already made an incredible contribution to Hendrick Motorsports, and our entire company is excited about running another full season and winning races with him in 2010."

Martin has a whopping 401 top-10 finishes in his career, and will add plenty to that total in the next year and a half.
Depending how next year goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if he wants to still race in 2011 and beyond, though at that point he may have to go elsewhere to clear up room for Brad Keselowski, a talent Hendrick no doubt wants on his Cup team in the near future.

When it comes to going back and forth on retirement, Martin is the NASCAR equivalent of Brett Favre. But this year is exposing one big difference between Favre and Martin: Martin can still compete for big wins and titles, while Favre can’t.

Most people don’t realize how being in good shape can help a driver in NASCAR, even if he’s just “sitting in his car for four hours,” as many non-NASCAR fans might say. The races are very grueling, and drivers who look like Jimmy Spencer don’t win very often.

He may be 50, but Martin is in better shape than most of the young drivers on the Cup circuit. That’s played a big part in his continued success later in life.
"I'm in the best condition of my life, I'm recharged, and I'm motivated,“ he said. “Going to the racetrack every weekend is still really fun, and that's the key. There's more gas in my tank.”

I’ve been hard on Mark at times over the retirement waffling, as I tend to find that an annoying trait among athletes. It’s not that I’m annoyed they want to come back, it’s just seems silly how they make such a big deal about quitting, but don’t actually do it.

But now that he’s ended the waffling and announced he’s back for a little while, I’m behind Martin as much as anyone else. He’s one of the most respected people in the garage for a reason: He’ll respect your space if you respect his, but at the same time is no pushover on the track. He’ll purposely drop back if he knows you’re faster and it’s early in the race, but he’s going to come up hard and pass you once he gets his car adjusted properly.

If he can pull out a championship this year or in 2010, I can say without a doubt it will be the most popular championship in the modern era, as no one deserves it more than Martin.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who said he's through waffling? He has a contract for part-time in 2010, but I guess the contract has been renegotiated. It looks like Rick is putting the future in jeopardy by hanging on to the present like he did with R&D of the COT in 2007.

May 7, 2009 at 11:04 AM 

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