On the day of our nation's independence, Mark Martin and Rick Hendrick announced that Martin would drive full time for the powerhouse owner next season. Some Martin fans are upset because he is changing teams and numbers again. Others are just upset that he's going to what some consider the "evil empire" of Hendrick Motorsports and there are still some that believe it's just a money thing.
Let's take a short journey back in time when Mark decided to leave Rousch-Fenway. Martin went to Jack Rousch and expresseed his desire to retire prior to the 2006 season. Rousch talked Martin into running one more year, which he did. During that 2006 campaign, Martin rexamined where he was in his racing career and personal life. Mark wanted to spend more time with his family due the being on the road 36 weekends of the year. Who could blame a man in his mid to late 40's for feeling that way? Rousch didn't want to have Mark run a part time schedule. This is the same guy that Martin had been loyal to 19 years. That was the first shot that gets us to where we are today - Rousch and Martin not able to come to an agreement.
Martin was offered a unique opportunity from car owner Bobby Ginn. Ginn would allow Mark to run a part time schedule and help mentor young motorcycle racer, Robby Carmichael. Ginn would allow Martin to pick which races he wanted to be in. Ginn would have Chevrolets in the stable and have the assistance of Hendrick Motorsports. The 2007 Daytona 500 saw Mark run a close second to Kevin Harvick and springboarded Martin into a renewed enthusiasm. Despite leading in points when the Sprint Cup went to Bristol, Mark was true to his word and sat out the race to continue his original agenda.
Midway through the season, Bobby Ginn sold his team to DEI and would split time with Aric Amirola in the 01 Army car. I think this is where Mark changed his thinking of what he wanted to do. I think as time wore on, that Mark saw how DEI was being run and he continued to honor his contract but deep down, I don't think he was as happy as he hoped to be. Martin would develop a relationship with Rick Hendrick and would eventually drive the number 5 Hendrick Busch Series entry in 2007.
When Dale Earnhardt Jr. came to Hendrick for the 2008 season, Jr. would field two Nationwide teams; the 88 car of Brad Keslowski and the 5 car with Hendrick's support. Martin would continue that relationship and drive the 5 car in select races in 2008, winning in Las Vegas. It was Jr. Motorsports first win and Martin's 48th of his Nationwide career.
So as Mark Martin prepares to embark on another chapter of a succesful racing career, I don't see this move as a money thing. I see it as Mark doing what Mark wants to do. He still has a thirst for winning and can still compete at the high level that Sprint Cup demands. Rick Hendrick saw that the Casey Mears experiment wasn't working out as both had hoped for so he felt a change was needed. That's where Martin and Hendrick decided that they could work out a deal that they hope will benefit both.
This is about Hendrick making the 5 car contend for wins, and top 10's on a weekly basis. It's about getting positive exposure for sponsors Kelloggs and Carquest. It's about Mark Martin being in equipment that he feels he can win in. It's about Martin wanting to reach for the golden ring one more time before he does hang his helmet up. It's about both Hendrick and Martin realizing that this deal can benefit both.