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Mark Martin will continue to drive in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. The 52-year-old Martin, known to be leaving Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the 2011 in the face of Kasey Kahne's arrival, signed with Michael Waltrip Racing. He'll drive the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine (Aaron's Sales and Lease Ownership) Toyota Camry in 2012 and 2013, team owner Michael Waltrip announced at Texas Motor Speedway.
Since Waltrip began his team in 2007, the No. 00 belonged to journeyman David Reutimann. Waltrip made it known that Reutimann would be released from his ride after the 2011 season, making Martin's ascendance to the ride a fait accompli.
Waltrip has had a partnership with rental firm Aaron's since 2000: "I flipped over in a car here in 2000 with Aaron's on it and we've won races with Aaron's in the Nationwide Series and in the Cup Series. We're here to announce that Mark Martin will drive the Aaron's Dream Machine in 2012 and 2013 - and we have an option for Aaron's for sponsorship with them in 2014 as well. It's a big day for our team."
After speaking with Aaron's CEO Ken Butler about the future of the team, "He wanted to know what we were going to do. He picked a future Hall of Famer here to drive the Aaron's Dream Machine and I couldn't be prouder or happier," Waltrip stated.
The entire process to bring Martin to Waltrip's team took less than three weeks. "I look forward to Mark not only driving our cars but elevating our whole program, coaching our drivers and bringing some of that experience and knowledge to our team," Waltrip said.
Martin will not run the entire 36-race Sprint Cup Series during his contract term; the contract with Aaron's is for 30 races. "We're open for suggestions and sponsors," Waltrip quipped.
For his part, Mark Martin is looking forward to "having an opportunity to come in and work with an organization that is willing to get me an opportunity to have some effect or some say in the direction of the competition program. The performance level is not where they would like to be right now, but they're making a serious move toward stepping that up and I'm really excited to have a chance to be part of that.
"Everybody knows I like to help people and so getting a chance to work with some of the young drivers that come along and come through the program, as well as young pit crew members, is something that really means a lot for me. I can't wait to get started."
Martin did have some other options, but most were "wait and see if it materializes." He went with Michael Waltrip Racing because "they are making serious moves, bringing Clint Bowyer in, [retaining] Martin Truex Jr. Both those guys are two of the brightest young stars in NASCAR. They are, of course, adding Scott Miller (vice president of competition) and making a number of other serious moves to try to step up."
Martin did note that his new team's forte is on the marketing side with Aaron's. "MWR is second to none on the marketing side; they've made a serious commitment to try to step it up on the race track as well. For me, it's very fun to take and get involved in a program and see it step up."
© 2011 Anne Proffit