Will Mark sit out?

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 2, 2007

Can he actually do it this time? Can Mark Martin actually retire for the third time and sit out the race at Bristol in three weeks? With the cup guys (most of them, anyway) taking the weekend off, Martin’s plans have been the hot topic.

Martin’s plans to retire after the 2005 season were derailed by a very persistent Jack Roush. He came back and drove full-time last season, participating in the Chase and representing a new sponsor. But that was it, 2006 would be his last season, he was burnt out and needed time off.

Then, along comes Bobby Ginn, one of the newest NASCAR team owners and one of the wealthiest. Ginn made a deal with Martin to move to the no. 01 Army car for 20 races in 2007.

Martin could do as he pleased, choose which tracks he would race, and make a little more money. The biggest surprise to me in during this whole transition was not that Martin left Roush after 19 years; it was that he left Ford, opting for the Chevrolets of Ginn.

Fast forward, Martin finishes second in the Daytona 500 by less than half a second and posts a solid fifth at California. He now sits atop the championship standings after those two races, the first time Martin has occupied that spot in almost five years.

Say Martin posts solid finishes in the next two races, Las Vegas and Atlanta — he has won at both tracks. Does he really sit our Bristol while leading the points, or even in the top-five?

Safe money says no and Martin’s track record proves it. He can’t get enough, he’s a born racer. Martin is also finding out that those Chevrolets with Hendrick engines are pretty fun to race.

Some of those closest to Martin also think he will be in the car at Bristol, and beyond. Both Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton have been quoted to that effect. I agree with those guys.

The cup guys are off this weekend as the Busch series makes the third trip south of the border for the road course race in Mexico City.

The Telcel-Motorola 200 will run Sunday afternoon at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez speedway. This is the first of two Busch races that will be run out of the country. The series makes it first visit to the road course in Montreal in August.

At last count, nine full-time cup drivers will make the trip to Mexico to drive in this race. Of the nine, most eyes will squarely on Juan Pablo Montoya. His participation is garnering unbelievable attention and you’ll see a party like no other if he wins the race, and there’s a good chance of that happening.

Montoya, along with the usual road-course suspects, Boris Said, P.J. Jones, Brian Simo, and Scott Pruett, will be the favorites. The defending champion of this race is Denny Hamlin and he will be looking to defend the title.

ESPN, the network that holds the broadcast rights for the entire Busch season, will televise the race in its now infamous “Full Circle” format. The race will be televised on three of ESPN’s different channels, in both English and Spanish. The event will also be heavily covered on ESPN’s radio network and various websites.

Have fun, and off we go to Las Vegas next weekend.