NASCAR notebook: Martin: Don't talk to me about retirement

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Just because Mark Martin actively lobbied his successor in Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 Chevrolet, don't expect him to step aside before the end of the 2011 season.

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Just because Mark Martin actively lobbied his successor in Hendrick Motorsports' No. 5 Chevrolet, don't expect him to step aside before the end of the 2011 season.

And don't talk to Martin about retirement after the 2011 season. Martin, 51, who finished second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings last year, pledged to drive in 2012, even after Kasey Kahne replaces him in the No. 5 car.

"I would appreciate it if no one would write anything about me retiring, because I'm not going to retire," Martin said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. "I'm going to race in 2012. And so don't even talk about it. I'm racing in 2012.

"There will be an opportunity for me, I'm sure, that will be exciting and fun and that I can help people. I feel like I've done that. I feel like I did that in the No. 01 at DEI, and I feel like I've helped the No. 5 team realize that they can win races and contend for a championship."

Martin drove part time for Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007-08. He won five races and seven poles last year in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.


Martin said he sought out Kahne last year with an eye toward solidifying the transition to the No. 5.

"I initiated it before ever talking to (owner) Rick Hendrick, because I didn't want Rick to know that I was as concerned as I was about it," said Martin, who affirmed that he would drive No. 5 Chevy through 2011. "So I talked to Kasey two or three times last year starting back around September, and then I didn't get involved after that.

"And to be real honest, I didn't know the last month that it had gotten to this level. So I'm thrilled. It's so exciting."

Martin influenced Kahne

Kahne, whose 2011 plans still have to be settled--even though he will be under contract to Hendrick--said Martin was a factor in his choice to sign with Hendrick.

"Mark pulled me aside a few times, and one time we sat in his bus for at least an hour and talked about things," Kahne said Friday. "He's an unbelievable guy and an unbelievable racecar driver, and to be able to sit there and talk to him and learn about something I have no idea about was nice for me.

"So, yeah, that was a huge part of my decision. I've always had that in the back of my head on what I had learned from Mark. Jimmie Johnson has been a big part of it as well. He's always been a great guy to me, and I think he's helped me whenever I've had questions--not even about the whole Hendrick Motorsports thing. I've had questions about other things, and Jimmie has always been there to help out.

"So I think between those two guys and then just sitting down with Mr. Hendrick and learning about the place, walking around the place, I was just really impressed and really excited to be a part of it now."


Rebuilding time for RPM

Richard Petty Motorsports, the team Kahne is leaving at the end of the season, faces other challenges. All three of its other drivers--AJ Allmendinger, Paul Menard and Elliott Sadler--are in contract years.

Team owner and CEO Foster Gillett addressed RPM's future Friday morning.

"I think our focus at this point is to do the best that we can," Gillett said. "It's a work in progress next season, as far as our driver lineup. I don't think that's a secret. I think we talked about that at media day (in February at Daytona), and we're working as hard as we can to have the best drivers possible."

Gillett said he was confident Kahne would finish the season in the No. 9 Budweiser Ford.

"Not only do I expect that, the one thing that I do know well is what a gentleman Kasey Kahne is. ... I think we've all been very pleased with him as a man and a person and his ability to drive the car. I think a lot of people explain him as kind of a racer's racer.

"If you give him great equipment, he'll go and win, and I think that's our focus. I really believe we have a championship-caliber team in the 9 team as a whole, with the driver and the sponsor and all the people that are a part of it."

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