(Originally appeared Aug. 19, 2011 at WRALSportsFan.com)
Virtually every week, the same question keeps getting asked: "What are your plans for next season?"
And each week the answer is given in the same monotonic response: "I don't know. But things will work out. I'm not worried."
Perhaps the reason Mark Martin isn't worried is because 2011 will be his last season as a Sprint Cup driver, period.
Now, admittedly, Martin hasn't said so. We've not heard him utter the R-word – retirement – even once.
But if you look at all of the things that have happened – and continue to happen this season when it comes to drivers potentially changing teams – Martin's name is rarely mentioned.
So much has – or more appropriately, had – been mentioned about the crop of free agents that would be available after the 2011 season was over: Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya.
Well, fast-forward to the present time and Edwards recently signed a new long-term deal to remain with Roush Fenway Racing, Bowyer is reportedly close to signing a new deal with Richard Childress Racing, and Montoya is on the cusp of re-upping with Chip Ganassi Racing – as if anyone expected him to go anywhere else, right?
So tell me, what rides are left for 2012? Correction, make that what QUALITY rides are left for 2012?
None. Zero. Nada.
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