Martin Ready for New Challenge

Mark Martin

"Even though it's been a long time since people have done it except for me in 2007 and 2008, what I'm doing is old school." (Photo: Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Mark Martin begins the next phase of his NASCAR career as a member of the Michael Waltrip Racing team in 2012.

The veteran driver ended his tenure with Hendrick Motorsports last season and signed on to drive a 25-race schedule for MWR, a plan he is thrilled was able to come together.

“I've had a great offseason,” Martin said. “Had the time of my life with Hendrick Motorsports and made friends for life there. But this is a new challenge from an organization standpoint, a lot of new faces, and then a lot of guys I've worked with before. I couldn't believe it when I walked through the shop the first time. You can't believe how many people I've worked with before that are at MWR now.”

Martin says he felt comfortable nearly from the moment he joined Waltrip's organization, which will include the returning Martin Truex Jr. and fellow newcomer Clint Bowyer in 2012. That feeling was something he was searching for to help make the decision of where his career would go after leaving Hendrick and he's glad the path led to MWR.

Martin has the utmost respect for what Waltrip has been able to create with his team.

“I could not do what Michael Waltrip has done – and would not do it,” Mark Martin said. “I have got to give him props. You look around here and just think about the payroll every week and the things – he’s built quite an organization here.

“They want to compete week in and week out with the big boys and they’re working hard to try to get there.”

The one thing Martin wanted to ensure this year, in addition to being competitive, was to find a team that could accommodate his desire to run a limited schedule.

Waltrip and sponsor Aaron's were able to put that together for Martin who stresses that despite his wish to dial down his activity, his passion for racing is far from over despite not running the entire Sprint Cup Series.

“I love racing, and I want to race, and, you know what: Even though it's been a long time since people have done it except for me in 2007 and 2008, what I'm doing is old school,” Martin said. “It's what David Pearson did; it's what Cale Yarborough did. They raced the races that they wanted to race, and they didn't race the races that they didn't want to.

“I like them all, but I've got to take a certain amount of breaks, and the ones that I'm taking make the most sense to me. I really think it makes me a better racer at this point in time, after all of these years. It makes me a much better racer to skip some races and recharge. It makes me more hungry and more excited each time."

Martin will get his first shot with the new team in the Daytona 500, thanks to MWR acquiring points from FasLane Racing's 2011 effort. That move provides Martin with a guaranteed starting berth in this year's "Great American Race," an event that has eluded the veteran so far in his career.

While he believes this year's effort will be a competitive one for the MWR team, Martin says he'll have no regrets if he does finally end his driving days without bringing home a Daytona trophy.

"I have not lost one ounce of sleep over not winning it other than the disappointment of being within three feet of it in '07," he said recalling the disappointing of just missing the win over Kevin Harvick five years ago. "I had to stop short because I did recall when I was telling you that I hadn't lost any sleep over it – to be real honest, that's not accurate. I did lose a little bit over coming within three feet of it. You don't get to choose which races you win. If you're lucky, you just get to win some.”

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