Veteran NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Mark Martin won't use the word 'retire', but he's admitted that he isn't looking for a new race seat for next season and almost certainly won't be competing in the Daytona 500 next February, the first time he'll be absent from the grid there since 1987 after 26 consecutive starts.

"It's time for me to open a new chapter and do some other things," said Martin, who at 54 has 40 career wins in 880 starts dating back to a 1981 race at North Wilkesboro, although he's never won the Daytona 500 itself or a Cup title in all those years of campaigning.

"My life is going to change," he admitted after indicating that he's set for an as-yet unspecified role at Stewart-Haas Racing that will likely see him test and shakedown cars on behalf of its four-driver line-up in 2014. "The major definition is I'll do the preseason testing. The cool thing about that is I get to do it on my terms. We haven't gone solid with the level of commitments or duties I will have.

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"I'll still have an opportunity to satisfy my competitive fire and still be able to be involved in the sport at whatever level I want to be. And we'll let that kind of materialize as we move forward past Homestead," he continued. "I told them that I want to get this year behind me. I'm kind of tired, I might not make the best decisions right now.

"I'm going to open a new chapter," he said. "I squeezed every ounce of the good stuff out of my driving career. I'm really excited about moving on and [still] being involved in racing. I'll still compete as a competitor in other ways.

"I don't think I'm going to miss being a race car driver because I got to do that and was real good at it," he added. "It's exciting because I get to be involved in racing and I love it so much."

Martin could have opted to continue, as he's not been short on offers after proving time and again that he can run with the very best of the modern breed of drivers out on the track. "I have shot every inquiry down that I've had for any of the top three divisions for 2014," he revealed this weekend in Phoenix. "I've shot them down because I haven't been interested in doing that.

"I really enjoyed this year not dealing with all of that, and I don't think that that's of any major consequence," he said, adding: "I'm not having to quit before I'm ready ... I am 100 per cent comfortable and ready."

After nearly two years running a part-time campaign in Michael Waltrip Racing's #55 car after a stint at Hendrick Motorsports, Martin was the choice of the SHR team to stand in for Tony Stewart in the #14 when the three-time champion broke his leg in August and was ruled out of competition for the remainder of the year. Perhaps it was that experience that Martin was hoping would prove to be a suitable 'high' on which to bring down the curtain on his time as a racing driver, but the driver indicated that his decision was actually made much earlier than that.

"I ran third in the Daytona 500 in 2013. That felt good and I knew that that was my last Daytona 500 ... I had my mind made up at least in January," he revealed. "I won't be in the Daytona 500 [in 2014]."

And in fact his time in the #14 hasn't ended up really being the flourish to the end of his racing career that he'd been hoping for, as he's struggled to deliver decent results to the team in the car owner championship. "The last two months has not been pretty," he sighed. "Obviously it was my hope to slip into this race car and get people's attention ... I was trying to go out with some dignity.

"I can still drive a race car pretty fast, but I'm not the driver I was at my peak, and I know it," he admitted. "Maybe for a while I didn't, but I know it. We still run good - we sat on the pole in the spring here. I'm not saying I can't run good, but I can feel it in everything I do. Every time I get up and walk across the room, I can tell I'm not 35.

"The garage is full of drivers that are on their game, and I've gotten all the good out of mine," he continued. "I worked really, really hard the last ten years to continue to be a formidable opponent in the garage, and from time to time when stuff was right, I was able to and I'm proud of that.

Now, once his stint in the #14 is over and done with after next weekend's season finale, it still certainly won't be the last that the NASCAR paddock sees of the durable star.

"It's not like I'm going to go hide," he laughed. "I've got 40 years invested in this sport and I've had tunnel vision the whole 40 years. I won't be at every race, but I'll be at races and I'll still be involved in the sport.

"I expect to have a lot broader windshield and be a lot less wound tight and tunnel-visioned," he added.

One thing Martin was quick to shoot down was any suggestion that SHR's Danica Patrick needed a driver coach to help her adjust to the Sprint Cup series after a disappointing rookie season at the top level of stock car racing in 2013.

"Danica does not need a driving coach," Martin stated unequivocally. "She's driving an amazing job, in my opinion. But if we can feed her faster race cars, she will reach her full potential. So I don't want you guys to write that I'm going to be coaching Danica, because I don't think she needs one ounce of coaching.

"She's driving fantastic. We've got to get her cars faster. So if I was able to aid in any way, shape or form the amount of information that was given to her to utilize or maybe [the team] getting the right stuff under her, then that would be a success. But as far as coaching her driving, I don't think she needs it."