Martin perfect candidate to share Cup duties with Danica

Mark Martin and Danica Patrick address the media at
Daytona media day in 2010. Credit: NASCAR Public Relations

With Danica Patrick set to drive a partial Sprint Cup schedule for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2012, speculation has swirled as which driver may split the ride with her. Team owner Tony Stewart has said he would like to find another driver to keep the organization’s third car in the top 35 in points.

One name that keeps popping up is Mark Martin, who is closing out the final year of his contract in the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports. Having piloted the No. 5 car since 2009, Martin has been evasive about his future plans.

On Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Stewart admitted he had Martin in mind for the job.

“I would love to have him,” Stewart said. “I’ve been a Mark Martin fan for a long time and trust me I would love nothing more than to have Mark in one of our cars.”

Martin is the perfect candidate. With a Sprint Cup career spanning nearly 30 years and 40 wins, Martin brings experience and a solid track record without the demands of a full-time ride. Martin could also help guide Patrick at NASCAR’s top level next year. Patrick is slated to run eight to 10 races for SHR while competing full-time for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series.

The veteran driver has also already acted as a mentor to Patrick in her transition to stock cars, a role he enjoyed. Both sponsored by, Martin took the IndyCar star under his wing last year, during Patrick’s first season pulling doubly-duty in IndyCar and the Nationwide Series. During a disastrous race at Dover where Patrick crashed after having a tire go down, Martin visited Patrick at her hauler to give her a pep talk.

In an interview with Nate Ryan of USA Today, Martin said at the time, "It's just that I know when she competes against another newcomer — and that newcomer has an extensive stock-car racing background — it's not fair, man. It's like she's got one hand tied behind her back."

A few weeks later when Patrick returned to the series at Charlotte, Martin was there to coach her. He got behind the wheel of the No. 7 Go Daddy Chevrolet, recommended adjustments to make the car better and drove it around the track.

Patrick was appreciative of Martin’s guidance. In the same USA Today interview, Patrick said, "Mark hopped in the car and drove it, wanted to get a feel and get it close for me. … We worked on the car all afternoon. It's nice to have a reference and baseline." Patrick went on to finish 21st, her highest finish in her first nine Nationwide starts.

It’s clear that Patrick and Martin work well together, and with good results. But even though Martin may be a good fit to share the car with Patrick, it will take money to make it happen. As is the case for so many NASCAR teams, Stewart said finding sponsorship will be a determining factor.

“The biggest thing is us getting the financial backing to run the remainder of those races. I would love nothing more than Mark in all the races that Danica doesn’t run next year,” Stewart said.
Martin perfect candidate to share Cup duties with Danica Martin perfect candidate to share Cup duties with Danica Reviewed by Rebecca Kivak on Sunday, September 04, 2011 Rating: 5