Woody: Martin-Hendrick Mess May Get Ugly
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
Mark Martin is a proud old warrior who has no intention of accepting a bum’s rush out the back door at Hendrick Motorsports.
He made that clear last week in a rare flare of temper after ESPN commentator Ray Evernham said Martin should gracefully – even gratefully – surrender his ride next season to Kasey Kahne.
The audacity of the suggestion struck a nerve. An irate Martin made it clear that he won’t give up his ride without a fight. He has a contract to drive for Rick Hendrick next season and, by golly, he expects Hendrick to stick to it.
Anything less – mothballing Mark in a third-rate car fielded by a third-rate team or letting him hang around and sweep out the shop – is unacceptable.
Hendrick created this mess earlier this year when he announced he had signed Kahne to drive for him, even though he already has a full limit of four drivers.
No problem, said Hendrick – Kahne won’t join the operation until the following season, 2012, after Martin has moved on.
That was a disaster in the making. If Kahne can’t join Hendrick until 2012, why make the announcement early in 2010, leaving him hanging for 2011?
It doesn’t send a very encouraging message to Kasey’s current employer, Richard Petty Motorsports, to have a driver who’s leaving even before he knows where he’s going.
Now we’re seeing growing dissension as speculation swirls around Mark’s muddled future.
Martin has struggled this season compared to last year’s dazzling run, adding to his chaffed emotions. Evernham’s suggestion that he should willingly give up his ride to Kahne sloshed more fuel on the fire.
The normally mild-mannered Martin boiled over and he took the media to task for dwelling on the matter.
Such unrest was predictable from the outset. It will continue to fester until Kahne’s 2011 situation is resolved. Here’s the deal:
Hendrick has signed five drivers but can field only four cars.
No other team is yet willing/able to adopt Kahne next year and keep him on ice for Hendrick.
A hot young talent like Kasey won’t willingly sit out a season.
For Kahne to join Hendrick next year the boss will have to shed one of his four current drivers: Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson. The latter trio of superstars is not likely to go anywhere, leaving Martin as the most expendable.
That puts Hendrick in a pickle because Martin has made it clear he doesn’t consider himself “expendable,” and is not going to be pushed out.
It’s a mess in the making and there’s no solution in sight.
It’s hard to fault Hendrick for grabbing Kahne when he could, but in his haste he has created a tumultuous situation that appears destined for a very unhappy ending.
– Larry Woody can be reached at email@example.com Comments