Martin leaves door open to run full 2008 schedule

Mark Martin seems at peace with his decision to run a part-time schedule in 2007, even though it means walking away from Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway with the points lead.

"I think that it's going to be interesting seeing the Car of Tomorrow in its first race. Seriously, I'm just going to hang out, barbecue a little bit and watch the race."
-- Mark Martin

But the four-time Cup runner-up left the door open for a full-time schedule in 2008.

Martin said on Tuesday that he will talk to Ginn Racing general manager Jay Frye in September about next year's plan, which currently calls for him to run a 22-race schedule with the option to add races as he is this season.

"Please, let's don't talk about that right now," Martin said. "I haven't even missed a race yet. I haven't even sat out Bristol yet. Let's wait until September to talk about '08.

"That's when I'll talk to Jay. We won't be talking about it until then."

In a 55-minute conference call, Martin spoke repeatedly about how he didn't want to run for a championship in 2007, emphasizing 2007 each time.

He said the decision to step away this year wasn't nearly as tough as many made it out to be, noting the last 19 years spent racing for a championship have taken a toll.

"It [the decision] hasn't been gut-wrenching at all," Martin said. "I had some emotions, but it's not been about the championship. It's about racing in general.

"But I'm excited that I don't have to worry about chasing the championship and making the Chase. It's been a lot of stress for a lot of years. I don't have that weight on my shoulders anymore -- or certainly don't have it for 2007."

That doesn't mean Martin won't be busy. He's scheduled to test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina on Wednesday, then help motocross star Ricky Carmichael make his late-model stock car debut in Lake City, Fla., on Saturday night.

He'll also be working with his 15-year-old son, Matt, in Saturday's race at Columbia Motorsports Park in Florida.

"I'm not interested in chasing that championship … 2007 isn't the year to do that anymore," Martin said. "I've got some other things I'm very interested in pursuing.

"There are portions of my life that have been passing me by. I'm gonna try to capture some little pieces of those at the age of 48. It's never too late."

Martin, who will skip the next two races, said he didn't feel any different walking away from the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet on Sunday than after any other race in his career.

"I didn't have any idea we still were leading the points when I got out of the car," said Martin, who has finished in the top 10 in all four races. "I was pretty proud of that, but not as proud as my son Matt is. Sometimes he's hard to impress. He seems to be very proud of that fact.

"My Monday's been the same. Tuesday's been the same. I've been incredibly busy trying to get everything caught up so I possibly can cruise somewhere along the way, but I don't know when that's going to be."

Benny Ertel, Martin's business manager, told ESPN.com's Marty Smith on Tuesday that he expects Martin to run "more than 26 [races]," and if the No. 01 Chevrolet qualifies for the owner's Chase for the Nextel Cup, he'd "bet the house" Martin would run each of the final 10 events.

"The guy eats and breathes racing, and if NASCAR would say it's 30 races [that count toward] the championship, he'd do it," Ertel said. "But it's not, so his schedule started off as 22 and he's already moved it to 23.

"If they'll just let this guy catch his breath, you never know, he might run the whole schedule next year."

Martin plans to spend Sunday at his Daytona Beach, Fla., home with his family watching the Bristol race on a 42-inch plasma television set with TiVo.

"So I'll be replaying the wrecks, moving them back and going forward and watching them in slow motion," Martin said. "I will sorely be disappointed if there isn't lots of wrecks because it seems like there sure is every time I go -- every time I'm in the race there.

"So there probably will be again. I think that it's going to be interesting seeing the Car of Tomorrow in its first race. Seriously, I'm just going to hang out, barbecue a little bit and watch the race."

He's sure it'll be an eye-opening experience after competing in 621 consecutive Cup races.

Martin also expects the weekend to be eye-opening for Carmichael as the latter begins his transition from two wheels to four and for rookie Regan Smith as he takes over the No. 01.

"We're all in for an eye-opener, and I don't even know what to expect," Martin said. "I expect to enjoy watching the race, and there might be a twinge in there along the way that I wish I was there. But I doubt it."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com. Marty Smith covers NASCAR for ESPN.com.