Mark Martin’s career may be winding down, but not before one more highlight ride

Posted Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
More information Series updates SPRINT CUP Clinch scenarios: Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards can lock up spots in the Chase field this week. Bowyer needs to finish 12th or better (or 13th with a lap led or 14th with the most laps led). Edwards needs a first or second (or a third and a lap or a fourth and most laps). Truex debut: Ryan Truex will make his series debut, driving the No. 51 Chevy for Phoenix Racing. The former K&N East champion is the brother of Martin Truex Jr. NATIONWIDE Full-time: Ty Dillon announced a full-time move to the series in 2014. This weekend, he is in both the Nationwide and Truck races at Bristol. CAMPING WORLD TRUCK First France: Ben Kennedy, the great-grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., became the first member of the founding family to race in a national series event when he ran in Wednesday night’s race. INDYCAR Briscoe back: Ryan Briscoe is back in the seat for Panther Racing this weekend at Sonoma. He broke his wrist at Toronto on July 13. He is the defending race winner at Sonoma. Franchitti roll: Dario Franchitti has gone from 12th to sixth in the standings with four consecutive top-four finishes. Now he goes to Sonoma, where he has never been worse than eighth. NHRA Good rebound: One week after not qualifying in Seattle, Ron Capps won at Brainerd, Minn., to move to second in points in the Funny Car division. He also earned a berth in the Countdown to the Championship. 16Where Jeff Gordon is in the standings, same as last year, when he finished third, third and second in the next three races to qualify for the Chase. They said it I kind of enjoy it. I kind of enjoy the pressure, like to have to be perfect that weekend, things like that.” — Kasey Kahne

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Mark Martin might have been ready to bow out on a nice, long, distinguished, well-respected career.

Or he might have kept on. He hadn’t decided, or at least hadn’t told anyone if he had.

About all he knew, he said, before the events of this week — when the stars aligned and his sponsors and Stewart-Haas Racing worked out a deal for him to drive the No. 14 car full-time the rest of the year — was that this might be it.

He might finally hang it up.

Now? Not so fast.

He has a ride. A good one. And who knows?

“I don’t have a plan right now, and I have much less planned right now than I had a week ago,” he said in a conference call with reporters this week. “A week ago, I was going to race a partial schedule. Now I’m racing all but one with a whole new situation, with what I feel like is a lot of challenges and a lot of pressure, and I don’t want to think about 2014 at all right now.”

Martin has earned that. The 54-year-old driver from Batesville, Ark., can take all the time he wants to think about it when he wants to think about it.

But now is not a good time to think about it. The No. 14 car can’t win a driver’s championship — Tony Stewart is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg. But it can win an owner’s championship, and Martin believes he is under pressure to perform.

His thinking is right. Why else would his sponsors, Michael Waltrip Racing, Toyota, SHR, Stewart’s sponsors and Chevy all sign off on the deal?

“It’s a win for every person involved, from Michael Waltrip Racing, Aaron’s, Brian Vickers, as well as the incredible amount of respect that I have for Tony,” Martin said. “Just the fact that they asked me was a huge honor to me. You know, I feel kind of amazed that we were able to get this done, but we were able to get it done. … I think all the stars just lined up for this to work out because anyone along the way, including Mobil 1, Chevrolet or Bass Pro Shops, could have probably stopped this from happening.

“There were so many pieces to this puzzle, it was a lot more complicated than it looked at face value. But the reason it was able to be worked out is because everyone was able to win in this situation.”

Now, can Martin win? Literally win?

He has jumped in on short notice already this season for Denny Hamlin and competed. But now he has a head start on practicing and setups for races the rest of the year.

“It’s going to be challenging, and challenges are good for me,” Martin said. “They push me hard. They drive me hard, and I will do everything I can to step up to the plate and dig in.

“But it is a new situation, and it’s not like you sign on with a new team in November and you have January and February to get to know each other before you go off racing. We’re faced with this race coming up in just a few days.”

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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