Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mark Martin Joins Michael Waltrip Racing through 2013

Photo Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR

With 2012 plans for Hendrick Motorsports installing current Team Red Bull driver Kasey Kahne into the #5 Chevy, this season's driver Mark Martin (a 40-time NASCAR Sprint Cup winner) was going to be rideless after the present 2011 Sprint Cup series season ends after three remaining events. Late in the summer, rumours swirled Martin would be part of Stewart/Haas Racing (a Hendrick Motorsports satellite team) but recent weeks indicated the 52 year-old driver could be venturing from Chevrolets to another car manufacturer brand in 2012. Following the course of recent rumours, Mark Martin has inked a deal to drive the #00 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Committed to the team for the 2012 and 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup seasons, Martin will drive the Michael Waltrip Racing-owned Toyota Camry for what is said to be 25 events in the 2012 and 2013 racing season. “Aaron’s and MWR have given me a chance to keep doing what I love with a competitive race car and a perfect schedule for the next two years." said Mark Martin at a press announcement that included team owner Michael Waltrip. Having signed Clint Bowyer less than a month earlier, Waltrip comments “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.”

The news of Mark Martin joining the team was also bundled with an announcement that long-time Michael Waltrip Racing sponsor and supporter Aaron's would return. Riding on the #00 Toyota for 30 races through 2013, Aaron's chief operating officer Ken Butler says “We have a lot of plans for Mark that I’m sure Aaron’s customers will enjoy in the coming months. We welcome Mark to the Aaron’s family and can’t wait to see him behind the wheel of the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine.”

Extending his NASCAR Sprint Cup career into the 2013 season, Mark Martin has been involved in what has to be the longest farewell tours of any professional figure. Started in 2005, Martin was planned to retire from the series following a publicized final season. Intended to turn over his #6 Ford after 18 full seasons with Roush Racing in NASCAR's top tour in 2006, Mark Martin resigned with the team for an extra year to please sponsorship. Appearing to have delayed the Arkansas native's retirement by only another season, Martin stun many when he signed a deal with another team to race Chevrolets part-time for what was a five-year deal. Driving partial schedules in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2007 and 2008, Mark Martin came to grasp the notion that his place was in a race car full-time. Pleasantly surprising the fans of stock car racing, Martin secured the #5 Chevy for racing powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. Originally planning to stay with the team for 2009 and part of the 2010 season, Martin's 5 race victories in the first year as well as a near championship season for the pairing encouraged both sides to extend their deal through 2011.

Driving the #00 Toyota for only part of the season, Mark Martin will start with the team in the 2012 Daytona 500. Michael Waltrip will also run the race car in the remaining three restrictor plate events and the Kentucky Speedway NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Sponsor and driver for the rest of the schedule has not been announced.

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