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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Possible Stewart-Haas fill-in role proves old-timer Mark Martin is still highly in demand

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Don't let anyone tell you experience isn't rewarded in NASCAR.

Take Mark Martin for example.

Of all the old-school drivers who have never won a championship, he is probably the most respected by drivers and most loved by fans.You'll rarely hear a negative word spoken about him by anyone related to this sport, and he is still immensely talented after all his decades of driving.

So it's no surprise that as soon as it became known that he wouldn't drive any races in the 55 car next year, other teams instantly came calling to ask for his services, and I'm sure he has plenty of options if he wants to continue racing next year -- which I assume is a safe bet for a racing junkie Mark. It's what he knows and he might ride this part-time thing for a long, long time.

But forget about next year for a minute. Let's talk about this year. Mark Martin is already gaining attention for THIS YEAR's silly season -- that being the battle to replace Tony Stewart in the 14 car for the rest of the 2013 season.

Initially thoughts turned to drivers like Austin Dillon and Regan Smith combining to finish out the season (Greg Zipadelli of Stewart-Haas Racing hinted Friday at a two-driver combo to fill in for Tony, with Dillon driving at least one race.

But the news changed by Saturday, when multiple sources reported that plans are being put in motion to let Brian Vickers immediately take over the 55 car full-time to end this year, and Mark Martin would then move to the 14 car until Tony recovers.

Not bad for an old guy (who coincidentally, is in such good shape he could beat up all the young guys -- with the possible exception of Carl Edwards).

Tony's conditionSpeaking of Tony, they're not admitting it yet, but I would bet he's out for the year and will be back at Daytona in 2014. Zipadelli said Tony is currently laid up in bed, having to keep his leg elevated above his heart, is using a wheelchair to get around, and will see a doctor this Wednesday to get a long-term prognosis. The team is assuming he'll be out at least a month , but don't expect him back in late September. In fact, if he does come back at all in 2013 I'll be very surprised. What would be the point?
(As a side note, I find it very strange to think of Tony Stewart sitting in a wheelchair. If he is cleared to attend the race next week in a wheelchair, I say he puts an engine on it and races around the track -- you know he wants to)

But getting back to Mark Martin, it's amazing to thing that in a NASCAR era with so many young stars who could do very well in the 14 car, a guy 54 years old is most in demand.

It just goes to show -- If you've got it, you've got it, and age ain't nothing but a number.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at, or follow him on Twitter @Matt Myftiu


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