Mark Martin said this weekend that he cannot rule out the possibility of driving a Nextel Cup car for someone other than Jack Roush next year.
Martin said he expects to drive a Craftsman Truck for Roush, full-time in 2007, but could also drive a limited Nextel Cup schedule for a different team. Asked about that possibility, Martin said, “There are certain scenarios that might bring that around. I’m interested in a limited schedule, and I’d love to do it with Jack, but that would kind of mess up the #6 car. I wish they didn’t have a limitation on teams.”
Roush’s #6 Ford Fusion will be vacated by Martin at the end of this season, in favor of rookie Todd Kluever. Kluever has been underwhelming in both the Busch Series and two Nextel Cup starts this season, and while he is named in the team’s contract with sponsor AAA for next season, Roush Racing President Geoff Smith said a change in plans is possible.
"We're not satisfied with the performance level of that Busch team," Smith said. “That program is under intense scrutiny by Jack right now. And Todd, of course, feels that pressure. He is ready for (Nextel Cup), but it's up to Jack to decide if he is the best candidate at this time for that program. We have a lot of confidence in Todd over the long haul, but we also have to deliver over the short haul."
“We owe it to AAA to make a formal evaluation.”
No matter what happens with Kluever, Smith made it clear that Martin is not a full-time option, saying, “You won't see Mark Martin in a Roush Racing owned program. All our programs are sold-out with the drivers we currently have. We're expecting Mark to be the lead guy in the Truck Series. That sponsorship is in place. We've got a couple of details to work out with Ford Motor Company, but that's where we expect to be. If he does more than that, it'll be supplemental."
Roush, however, sent a decidedly different message, saying, "I have not been informed by Geoff that he's given up on Mark being in the #6 car next year. Certainly, I haven't given up on that. It's pretty ironic that I had a meeting with Geoff Saturday morning, when we rededicated ourselves to making sure we give Mark as many options as we could.”
Sources in the Nextel Cup garage tell Sirius Speedway that Martin has an offer on the table from Boris Said’s No Fear Racing Team to run a limited number of races next season. The No Fear Team – owned by Said, Frank Stoddard and partner Mark Simo – contracts with Roush Racing for parts, pieces and personnel, and would provide an indeal place for Martin to continue his Nextel Cup career, while not putting Roush over the unofficial, four-team limit imposed by NASCAR.
In other Roush news, the team is still waiting to hear whether the National Guard will return as primary sponsor of Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford next year. If not, their spot will likely be taken up by the #16 team’s other sponsors.