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NASCAR veteran Martin not ready to fret about ride for next season

Mark Martin isn't worried about the future. Or if he is, he's not letting it show.

The next stop on the 52-year-old ageless wonder's career has been a point of speculation for more than a year. Since Kasey Kahne was signed to a multi-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports last April to take over Martin's No. 5 in 2012, the question has followed him: Where will Martin land?

"Well, lucky for me, I don't need a job, so I don't have to worry about it," Martin said. "If I was 20 years younger, I would be concerned about it. But I'm in a good position right now, you know, being able to wait it out and let things play out the way they will."

Maybe Martin, who has maintained he will be driving next season, is resigned to playing the waiting game. His current ride with HMS came via a chance call from Rick Hendrick in 2008 and there are plenty of big-name free agents who could change the series' make-up in Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers -- or maybe Martin is simply taking a cautious approach this time around.

Back in 2004, Martin announced that the '05 season would be his last in the No. 6 for Jack Roush, but when he was asked to stay on for another year and bridge the gap to David Ragan, he was accused of misleading the media. Last year, he said he felt "disrespected" because of rumors that he would be pushed out of the No. 5 a year early, despite his insistence that he wasn't going anywhere.

Now, here he is facing more questions about his future, and Martin isn't saying much about it. Instead he seems all too content knowing he'll be somewhere next season, even if it hasn't materialized yet.

"Something really, really fun and exciting is going to work out for me, something that will be very rewarding, and I'm in no hurry to force that to happen," he said.

If Martin's comments give us any insight into his thought process, it could be that what's next sees him follow in Tony Stewart's footsteps.

"The only thing that people in the garage will talk to me about, or the only thing they want to talk to me about, is driving their race cars -- and that's OK," he said. "You know, but sooner or later, maybe I'll get a chance to do something else in the sport, as well. I want to be a part of this sport for a long, long time, but they keep running at me about driving their stuff."

Martin has said he doesn't want to be a full-time owner but has previously called Stewart's driver/owner role with Stewart-Haas Racing a "sweetheart deal." If that's his end-game and he's not interested in just being a driver, that would seem to limit his choices, taking any of the elite teams, which would likely just need him behind the wheel, out of the equation. It would also put to rest any talk of his simply switching rides with Kahne in the No. 4 Toyota at Red Bull.

What's more likely is Martin joining a third-tier team, a la Stewart's pact with Gene Haas, and bringing an organization instant credibility and marketability, while also securing his future when he does stop driving. That would make the likes of Germain Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Front Row Motorsports or Whitney Motorsports intriguing possibilities.

But whatever he's thinking, whatever deal is or isn't in the works, or whenever it could fall into place, Martin isn't giving anything away.

"We'll just wait and see what happens," he said.

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Whether or not you think NASCAR was right in its fining of Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick and putting each on four weeks probations for their post-race antics at Darlington, there was no other option. These two notorious hotheads needed to be warned and the proactive approach was the only approach.

But the penalties do pose a question: If Busch and Harvick were reprimanded, why weren't Montoya and Newman?

The two weren't penalized for their on-track run-ins at Richmond, and there were no repercussions when Newman allegedly hit Montoya in the NASCAR hauler days later at Darlington.

It's not like Newman and Montoya have sterling reputations. Newman has had issues multiple drivers, including with Kahne and Joey Logano and Montoya has been embroiled in more than a few feuds. And it's not like NASCAR hasn't issued penalties following incidents in the hauler before. In '08 Stewart reportedly punched Kurt Busch when the two were in the hauler, though to be fair, the official release said it was only for on-track actions.

So what gives?

The difference, or course, is that Busch and Harvick's antics were played out before millions watching FOX's coverage of Saturday night's race, while Newman and Montoya were behind closed doors. The message isn't what you do, it's where you do it, and that may be the wrong message.

Feuds, and the possibility they might turn physical, has always been an underlying draw of the sport. NASCAR wants to maintain an atmosphere that allows for them, why else publicly say you want the drivers, to a degree, to police themselves with its "have at it, boys" edict? But we need to believe that NASCAR will step in when things get out of hand, no matter where it happens and no matter who's watching, or not watching.

1: Kyle Busch is one win away from tying Martin for the all-time Nationwide Series wins record of 49. There's a strong chance he could do it at Dover where ...

3: Busch has three wins in the series at the Monster Mile, including the last two races. Martin said Busch has already invited him to Victory Lane should Busch take the checkers.

Jimmie Johnson. The easy pick? No doubt, but this has been J.J.'s concrete playground. His six wins are a series-best on the track and you have to go all the way back to the fall of '08 to find the last time he didn't finish within the top seven. Edwards, who has six top-5s in the last nine races at the track could be a factor too, but look for Johnson to add another one of NASCAR's most unique trophies to his case.

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