Success may postpone Martin's retirement

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The driver of the No. 6 car is pondering another year while chasing the Nextel Cup title.

DOVER, Del. -- Mark Martin keeps passing the caution flag on his road to retirement.

Once on the brink of stepping away from Nextel Cup racing completely, Martin not only hasn't ruled out driving a part-time schedule next year, he's thinking of a full-time comeback in 2008.

By next week, Martin might have a totally different plan for his future.

Martin would have been a great boxer, like the ones who retire only to step back in the ring for one comeback after another. While Martin has never stopped competing, he's never stuck with any firm idea about his future. The only thing he does know is that he doesn't seem to really know what he wants.

There's only one way for the 19-year veteran to form a clear picture of his future: Step away.

"I don't know what I want to do until I slow down, and I'm not going to slow down unless I step aside," Martin said.

Martin said he's never missed a test session, a practice, qualifying or race over a distinguished career that's brought him everything but a NASCAR championship. He was ready to retire at the end of last season until car owner Jack Roush talked him into one more year.

Feeling more like a rookie at times, Martin is glad he returned behind the wheel of the No. 6 Ford. He qualified for the Chase and is in sixth place in the points standings -- 75 behind series leader Kevin Harvick -- heading into today's Dover 400. The Monster Mile might be just the track for him to pick up the pace.

Martin has four career victories at Dover and five straight top-10 finishes, easily making this one of his favorite tracks. Martin hasn't won a race all year and has 12 top-10 finishes. He has 25 career top-10 finishes at Dover, including four top fours in the last five races.

Another top 10, maybe a top five, will propel him into the thick of contention.

"We're right on the verge of greatness," Martin said. "We could have the best year of my career, or we could have a good year. It could go any of those ways."

Either way, this is the end of his career for now. Maybe.

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