MARTIN INSISTS HE WILL DRIVE NO. 5 IN 2011

NASCAR’s silly season is always full of twists and turns, but this year is more complicated than most. Earlier in the year, it was announced Kasey Kahne would leave Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of 2010 and would be driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. The current driver of the No. 5, Mark Martin is slated to drive the car for the 2011 season, while Kahne will have to find a ride for one year before climbing behind the wheel of the No. 5.

Once the announcement was made official, team owner Rick Hendrick vowed it was his job to find Kahne a ride for 2011, but as time has gone on it has seemed Martin would be the odd man out at HMS. Various rumors have put Martin behind the wheel of various Hendrick-affiliated teams, James Finch’s No. 09 car, but the latest has linked the veteran driver to the Red Bull Racing team.

While the media has speculated as to where Martin will land in 2011, he has been very clear as to what car he will drive.


“I don’t know why people think I’m stepping aside,” Martin said Friday in Indianapolis. “I made myself perfectly clear. There’s no inclination of any change.”

Typically a low key driver, Martin has taken personal exception to the various rumors and possibilities being circulated throughout the media.

“There is no road map to my future. So don’t ask me about 2012 and beyond. I feel disrespected when media doesn’t listen to me,” Martin added. “The media is making it look like I’m about to get fired. And I deserve more than that.”

While he may deserve more respect than that, it is not only the media that claims Martin will not be driving the No. 5 car next season. During their press conference Friday in Indy, ESPN analyst and former Hendrick employee Ray Evernham told the media, “Right now the right thing is for Mark to make room for Kasey.”

Following Randy Pemberton’s claim on Sirius NASCAR Radio that Martin would move over to Red Bull Racing, with Kahne behind the wheel of the No. 5, Martin’s business manager Benny Ertle said, “It’s the same thing, over and over again. We walk into the media center and someone immediately raises their hand and asks about where Mark will be racing next season. Mark has answered the question a thousand times and it’s always the same answer. `I will be driving the #5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports next season.’ That’s as simple as it is, but some reporters just don’t listen."

Perhaps the media have a right to speculate and doubt Martin’s claims for next year. He originally claimed to be retiring following the 2005 season. Then he returned full-time the next year, cut back his schedule for two seasons, then moved to Hendrick Motorsports and ran the full-season last year. Now, with Martin sticking by his guns and vowing to drive the No. 5 next year his credibility may be on the line. If it turns out that Kahne does drive the No. 5 in 2011, Martin will have a great deal of egg on his face. If not, Martin’s criticism of the media will have been justified.

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