Before the season began, Mark Martin was adamant that he wouldn't discuss his 2012 situation until after 2011 was resolved, or until he had something to announce. We're now much closer to the end of the season than the beginning, and while Martin is opening up about the future once again, he's still no more certain about his future plans now than he was before. All that's certain is that there is no place for him at Hendrick Motorsports, since his seat now has "Reserved for Kasey Kahne" on it.
"I have nothing, and it don't matter," Martin said Friday. "I'll have nothing until I have something. You guys don't even need to ask because there is absolutely goose egg going on."
Martin is both benefiting from and hampered by the fact that he may only run a part-time schedule in 2012. While he's clearly still able to run competitively at NASCAR's highest level, he's not drawing the guaranteed sponsorship dollars that a younger driver might command.
There's also the question of where those still-unsigned drivers like Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers might fit into the overall picture. Once their situations, and their associated designated sponsorship dollars, resolve one way or another, Martin will have a better idea of the schedule he'll piece together.
"What I want to do will be very specialized, and those will be the things that are left behind after the bigger pieces of the puzzle fit in," he said. "I really feel it's going to be extremely late because my pieces are probably going to fall in after the majors."
One of the most interesting possibilities is over at Stewart-Haas Racing. You'll recall that they already have apparently slated time for one part-time driver in Danica Patrick; why not another? The problem with that scenario is that Martin may not be as compelling a sponsor draw, particularly since he won't be running in the marquee races that Patrick will.
Martin's hands-down one of the best good guys in NASCAR. It'll be a shame to see fields without him, but he ought to be able to line up some runs for the next couple years. And then he'll get the final sendoff he deserves.