|Mark Martin with Hendrick Motorsports|
All eyes were on Mark Martin as it was made apparent he would not be back with Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. A lot of people at first speculated that Mark Martin would be heading over to join Stewart Haas Racing, however that would not be the case. After a lackluster season, David Reutimann was told he would not return to the #00 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing, leaving his seat open. In recent announcements from MWR for the 2012 season, fans officially learned Mark Martin will be sharing driving responsibilities with driver-owner Michael Waltrip in a new car #55 sponsored by Aaron’s.
Although Mark Martin is highly respected as a veteran driver with NASCAR, some may question why sign a two year deal with a driver on the last leg instead of the prime of his career? Especially when you consider at the close of this season, Martin finished 22nd in points. Also, his last truly competitive effort was in 2009 with five wins, which in retrospect, now appears to have been his last shot at winning a championship title. There are plenty of other current drivers equally as talented, who could make a competitive full-time run in that car in the next two seasons.
Is Martin the Brett Farve of NASCAR with his inability to make his mind up about the direction of his career, wavering between part-time and full-time seasons? Since Martin will not be running a full season schedule, perhaps this poses more than just one question. Is this career move for Michael or Mark? If Martin’s performance has been less than competitive at HMS, with some of the best equipment in NASCAR, what gives fans confidence that he’ll win with a team in what has proven to be less competitive equipment?
The key resource for any team is money in determining how competitive a team might perform and Mark Martin’s reputation certainly holds the potential to bring added financial support with his name to MWR. If that is the case, the additional resources will perhaps not only improve the competitiveness of the equipment, but Mark Martin’s veteran experience can also provide an added depth to this relatively newer, younger NASCAR team.
What happens next with Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip Racing is a story yet to be told. For now, while we ask questions about Martin’s latest career move, we can only sit tight and wait for the answers as the rest of this story unfolds when the new season begins at Daytona in February 2012.