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.
"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.