NASCAR veteran Mark Martin plans to race on once his Hendrick Motorsports contract comes to an end next year, with Kasey Kahne already lined up to replace him from 2012.
The 51-year-old, who was last year's championship runner-up, is signed to drive the #5 car until the end of next year, but he has stated that he is not planning to retire once his current deal with NASCAR's top team expires.
Speaking at Texas Motor Speedway, Martin also underlined that he is not considering an early departure from the Hendrick stable, as speculation continues about where Kahne will end up driving next year, before he takes over from Martin in 2012.
"If I did, I wouldn't be driving," said Martin when asked by reporters if he had thought about handing his drive to Kahne a year before his contract was up. "So, no; I'm not sure why you don't understand. It's not clear to me why you don't understand.
"Those guys wanted me to drive it for 2012. It was a little bit stretched to do one full-time season. I gave them three. It's been the gift of my career that Hendrick Motorsports has given me. One of my biggest concerns has been who is going to be the successor so that I didn't knock them out of getting the very best A-number-one fit.
"That's why I started talking to Kasey Kahne before anybody, in September of last year; because I do have some real good buddies: Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth. But since they wouldn't talk to me seriously and had to keep making jokes and cutting up, I mean, Kasey Kahne was the guy.
"And the timing wasn't exactly right but I wanted to make sure that he considered it because it's the perfect scenario for Kasey Kahne and it's the perfect scenario for Hendrick Motorsports. I figure three years is enough."
Martin added that he expects a good opportunity to come along for him in 2012, when he is likely to scale back the number of events he enters.
Back in 2007 and 2008 he ran a partial schedule for Ginn Racing and DEI, before signing up for a full-time comeback with Hendrick Motorsports in 2009.
"I would appreciate it if no one would write anything about me retiring, because I'm not going to retire," Martin added. "I'm going to race in 2012. And so don't even talk about it. I'm racing in 2012. There will be an opportunity for me I'm sure, that will be exciting and fun and that I can help people.
"I feel like I've done that. I feel like I did that in the #01 at DEI and I feel like I've helped the #5 team realise that they can win races and contend for a championship.
"And so I'll find another opportunity that's exciting to me and I don't want to commit to that now. I want to make sure that Hendrick is set and they are set. It's such an incredibly perfect scenario."
Martin also revealed that his talks with Kahne about replacing him at Hendrick were initiated by him even without acknowledging Rick Hendrick.
He seemed surprised that a deal was struck between the two parties so quickly after that.
"I initiated it before ever talking to Rick Hendrick because I didn't want Rick to know that I was as concerned as I was about it," said Martin. "So I talked to Kasey two or three times last year starting back around September and then I didn't get involved after that.
"And to be real honest, I didn't know the last month that it had gotten to this level. So I'm thrilled. It's so exciting."
When Martin starts the 2012 season according to his plans, he will be 53 years old.