Veteran, 54, ready for part-time slate, mum about 2014
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Not one lap has been turned in the 2013 season, but Mark Martin has already had his fill of questions about 2014. Understandably so.
Ever since the 54-year-old veteran mentioned on the Sprint Media Tour last month that this year would likely be his last with Michael Waltrip Racing, speculation has run like an open faucet.
At last weekend's NASCAR Preview in Charlotte, the first question from an open fan forum was about his future in the sport. Martin affirmed that he'll drive in 2014 -- to the applause of the gathered crowd -- but he also acknowledged the uncertainty surrounding his destination. He also confirmed that another full-time campaign was highly unlikely.
At Thursday's NASCAR Media Day fueled by Sunoco, Martin was even more coy.
"I'm not going to even talk about that," Martin said when asked if another 26-race schedule was a possibility. "It's a good number for me now -- that's why I signed up for it. I like it, but I'm not going to talk about 2014."
Martin's mild stonewalling left the heir apparent to the No. 55 MWR Toyota to do some of the talking. But Brian Vickers, who is all but earmarked for the Aaron's-sponsored ride next season, can't hazard a guess on Martin's plans.
"I have no idea. That's a question for Mark," Vickers said with a grin.
The one certainty Martin can claim is his desire to leave the No. 55 operation in a better place, allowing crew chief Rodney Childers and the rest of his team to compete for a championship when he leaves. Until then, Vickers -- who is scheduled to drive nine Sprint Cup races for MWR in Martin's place this season -- will have ample opportunity to rely on the expertise of a driver with three decades of racing at NASCAR's highest level under his belt.
"He could probably surprise us with how much longer he's got," Vickers said. "… He's done a lot of part-time years and I think that has extended his desire to compete as opposed to if he was only full-time. He would not be racing right now in my opinion. He would have retired. But he has found a way to make it work. I admire it."