Just three weeks ago, Mark Martin thought his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career would be coming to an end at age 52, now we know that is not the case.
As most expected, Michael Waltrip Racing announced Friday it has signed Mark Martin to drive the No. 00 Toyota for the 2012 and 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons.
“Michael Waltrip Racing is making a serious move to step up its program on the competition side, and I’m excited to be a part of that,” said Martin. “At a time when other NASCAR teams are cutting back and staying the same, Michael’s team is adding people and sponsors.”
Martin will run a 25-race schedule each of his two seasons with MWR, starting with the 2012 Daytona 500. Waltrip, who still wants to race, will drive the car in five races the next two years.
“It is the perfect schedule for me,” Martin said. “It enables me to catch my breath and spend more time with the fans.”
Martin is all too familiar with this ‘kind’ of schedule, as this is what he ran when he drove for Dale Earnhardt Inc. a couple of seasons prior to making the move to Waltrip’s camp.
Aaron’s will continue to sponsor the car for 30 races each year. Waltrip said MWR is looking for sponsorship for the other six races in 2012 and 2013. He doesn’t know who will drive the car in those events.
Surprisingly enough, this deal only took three weeks to finalize. It started when Aaron’s CEO Ken Butler talked to Waltrip about plans for the future.
“The thinking in our camp was, ‘What’s next?’ ” Butler said. “I went to Michael and said, ‘What can we do next?’ We started thinking outside the box. I said, ‘What about that Mark Martin guy?’ And here he is. I couldn’t be happier.”
With the announcement of Martin taking control of the No. 00 car next season, what does this mean for current driver David Reutimann?
Reutimann has driven the No. 00 car for the last five seasons. Reutimann, 41, is 28th in the Cup standings this season with no victories and only two top-10 finishes. With that being said, what gives?
It’s uncertain where Reutimann will go, but he could be a valuable asset to a team that could use a driver with some ‘experience’.
As for Martin, he will finish up his last season with Hendrick Motorsports this season, as he prepares to race in a Toyota next February.
“We have signed a future Hall-of-Famer,” Waltrip said. “This is a big day for MWR and Aaron’s. We have performed well this season, but haven’t finished well. We felt things were not going the way we hoped it would. So I couldn’t be happier and prouder.”
It seems as if Michael Waltrip Racing has been in the news more over the last month, than they have in the previous six-months.
Just three weeks ago, MWR also signed Clint Bowyer to drive for the team next season with 5-Hour Energy Drink as the sponsor.
“This organization now will have two of the best young drivers in Cup with Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.,” Martin said. “I can’t wait to work with those guys.”