Veteran wants to remain in the sport, not necessarily behind the wheel
HAMPTON, Ga. -- Discussions about what he would be doing in 2014 came to a halt when Mark Martin agreed to drive the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet for 12 of this year’s final 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, the veteran driver said Aug. 31.
Martin, 54, is filling in for the injured Tony Stewart, who is out for the remainder of the year, with a broken right leg. Prior to the move, Martin had competed in 15 of 25 races this season for Michael Waltrip Racing.
“I will be real honest with you, I could care less about 2014 right now because I am doing all I can to tread water,” Martin said. “Making this change was pretty huge because not only is it different crew guys working on the car … but it’s a whole different thought process, it’s a whole different bunch of guys that I didn’t have a chance to go to test [with] in February and go hang out in the shop.
“Just jumping right in it added, I don’t know, about three races to my schedule … so I picked up three additional races.”
Because of the change, Martin said he is “really pushed and driven to try to get immersed in this team and figure out what I like in these cars so that we can start putting that in there week to week.”
Martin finished 20th in his first start with SHR a week ago at Bristol Motor Speedway.
A 40-time winner at the Cup level, he has not competed full-time since 2011, his last with Hendrick Motorsports. It was announced earlier this year that he would not return to the No. 55 at MWR in 2014, and the organization would put Brian Vickers in the car full time.
Martin said he expects to remain involved in the sport, although he isn’t clear on what that might include. For now, his attention is focused on completing the season with SHR and helping the organization move forward.
“I’m in no hurry because I’m not really worried about what I do,” he said. “I do have a focus on what I can do in NASCAR. I want to do more in NASCAR than drive race cars. I want to do more than that. I had a good time at MWR, and they let me be a part of that organization a little bit more than just to show up and drive; I want to grow more of that.
“So that’s of great interest to me and is where my primary focus was before Tony’s No. 14 car came up. After that, it’s like I’m not worried. I’ve got to stay focused on what’s in front of me.”
To that end, he said, “we are still just throwing stuff at the car and me saying ‘nah, yeah that’s better, nah.’ When you find something that really feels good to you, there is a sense of continuity from track to track [and] you can use that same logic. You might not use the same springs and all but you can use the same logic and you can simulate it out and shoot for those same kind of feels at other race tracks.
“We are not there yet obviously. This is not like making a change over the winter. It’s not like stepping out of a MWR Toyota into even a (Joe) Gibbs Toyota like I did at Martinsville. There is just a lot going on.”