News & Media

Martin signs on for part-time ride with MWR

December 15, 2011, Joe Menzer,

FORT WORTH, Tex. -- When it came right down to it, Michael Waltrip and Mark Martin looked at what each other had to offer and decided they were a match made in Sprint Cup garage heaven.

Thus, Michael Waltrip Racing made it official Friday with the announcement at Texas Motor Speedway that Martin, who will turn 53 this Jan. 9, will drive 25 races in the No. 00 Toyota for the organization in each of the next two Sprint Cup seasons. Martin will drive the car in the season-opening Daytona 500 each season, while Waltrip will drive it in each of the other three restrictor-plate races and the Cup race at Kentucky Speedway both seasons.

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Team owner Waltrip also announced that the primary sponsor of the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine has signed on to cover the costs of 30 races in each of the next two seasons. Waltrip added that he will be looking for an assortment of other drivers and sponsors to fill in on the races neither he nor Martin are scheduled to drive.

More than anything, however, Waltrip said he is excited to have Martin, who has competed in the Cup Series for more than three decades, join his organization. He said he will be looking for Martin to provide expertise and insight that will serve the company well far beyond whatever finishes he's able to produce on the track in the No. 00 car.

Waltrip said adding Martin to the fold after the earlier hirings of driver Clint Bowyer and Scott Miller as executive vice president of competition make it clear that MWR is headed in the right direction.

"We want to see how it goes. And Mark is really into helping others reach their potential," Waltrip said. "We have a plan for him to drive 25 races over the next two years -- and to be at our competition meetings and hopefully help us be better.

"I know Bowyer coming to the team and Mark Martin coming to the team and Scott Miller coming to the team, and the new engine relationship we have with [Joe] Gibbs Racing and Toyota, and the things we're doing with Gibbs on simulation and wind tunnel ... all the things are pushing forward together. I think Mark and Clint are really coming on board at a very opportune time, because we feel like we've done a lot of good things back at the shop that are going to relate to better performance on the track. And when I say back at the shop, I'm talking about hiring Clint and hiring Mark and getting Scott. All those things are going to help our cars go faster."

Martin said that even though he explored many other opportunities -- including signing with Stewart-Haas Racing and driving the Cup races when Danica Patrick was not in the seat -- none came close to fruition.

"That was not close. Obviously, Tony and I put our heart into that, but that was not even close. So that wasn't a consideration," Martin said. "I don't really want to talk about the other possibilities. This is one that made my heart beep.

"The more I looked at it beyond face value, the more I was like, 'Whoa, I didn't see that coming.' And as I started to analyze it, I got more and more excited. And by the time we finalized the deal, it just continued to gain momentum from the excitement side of things -- because if you look at all the opportunities they're going to give me there, it's multiple things. All of which are fun and what I love to do. I couldn't ask for anymore."

* Sound Off: Martin talks about his newest gig

Martin is finishing up his third season as driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, a job he took after driving part-time for two seasons following a 19-year stint driving Fords for what is now Roush Fenway Racing. He said he's ready to take on the challenge of driving a Toyota for MWR.

He also said he realizes that MWR's on-track performances have not been what Waltrip would like. He said he hopes to help change that.

"That's not a negative. That's an exciting challenge to be part of, to be a part of the solution or a part of the growth," Martin said. "Sometimes slipping into something on the top, there's nothing but pressure there. When there is opportunity for improvement, and people want your help with that, that's an exciting challenge."

Waltrip added: "It is very rare that a young organization gets an opportunity to hire a driver with Mark's incredible talent, experience and insight into what it takes to be a winner. Mark will be competitive but also a great teammate to Clint, Martin [Truex Jr.] and me. I'm thrilled he will be in our cars, but just as thrilled he will be in our meetings."