Mark Martin is the boy that cried retirement. For the third year in a row, Martin has put off stepping out of a Cup series car. He announced Friday that he will depart Roush Racing at the end of 2006 to join MB2 Motorsports.
It's a rather shocking move. Not only does Martin leave Roush where he has enjoyed a storied 19-year career he also will change manufacturers from Ford to Chevrolet.
Jack Roush took a run at Martin earlier in the season to see if he would be amenable to running the Cup series full time in 2007 but Martin does not have the desire to run a full time schedule. The opportunity to drive for MB2 will allow Martin to split the ride the No. 01 Chevrolet with rookie Regan Smith.
"NASCAR team limits prevented Roush Racing from putting together an additional team for Mark," said Roush President Geoff Smith. "So, in the end, Mark had to move on in order to stay in the Cup series. He's meant a great deal to this organization and we certainly wish him the best in whatever he does down the road."
Martin made it clear that through the end of 2006 his focus will remain on the No. 6 Ford and vying for the championship. Martin is currently third in standings, "Our focus is on winning the championship. I've been fighting this fight in the No. 6 car for 19 years now, and we aren't about to give up anytime soon. It's the complete focus of our attention, and we'll fight down to the very end for it."
He did express a desire to perhaps be able to remain affiliated with Roush in some way: "I would drive a Ford truck in the Truck series on a limited basis if I had the opportunity," stated Martin. That seems unlikely considering that Martin will pilot a Chevrolet on the Cup side.
But Jack Roush didn't seem acquiescent to that scenario, "We are reevaluating things. I am looking at a few people who aren't driving trucks today. I have two or three names of people we are looking at."
For Martin the bottom line to remain in NASCAR's top division came down to the fact that he felt like he was giving up on his career too soon.
"I thought at the age that I am right now I wouldn't be able to compete against these young guys how I did in the past," said Martin. "But when you can compete like I have the last couple of years, it's hard to stop; it's hard to walk away when you still have an opportunity to win races."
Martin has 35 career Cup series wins and 234 top fives.