HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Never say never with Mark Martin.
The man could race in the Sprint Cup Series for the next 10 years. Or Sunday's race at Homestead could have been the final race of his Sprint Cup Series career. Neither would be surprising, would it?
Martin isn't using the word retirement, but isn't committing to anything either. He has a role that's publicly semi-defined with Stewart-Haas Racing, but it looks right now that Martin's Sprint Cup career is over. Before Sunday's race, many drivers and other NASCAR personalities including Martin's former team owner, Rick Hendrick, stopped to pose for pictures with Martin.
Thanks again to all the #NASCAR fans for the nice comments and support. Now it's time to start a new chapter.
— Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 17, 2013
The 54-year-old finished 18th on Sunday, which is, well, about where he's been all year with the team since moving over from Michael Waltrip Racing to replace Tony Stewart, who broke his leg in a sprint car crash. In 12 races, Martin finished inside the top 10 just once.
If it is the end, it's a stark contrast from a stellar career that included 40 wins over 882 Sprint Cup Series starts, though given the public respect that Martin's been showed throughout NASCAR, he'll be remembered for much more.
Ken Schrader says that Sunday's race was the final in his Cup career. He finished 34th for FASLane Racing, and retires with four wins in 763 starts across 29 seasons.
Juan Pablo Montoya finished 19th in his final start for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing before he moves over to the IndyCar next year, though you shouldn't rule out an occasional Sprint Cup Series appearance in the future.
And that could be what's in store for Jeff Burton next season as well. Burton finished 23rd in his final race for Richard Childress Racing and hasn't announced any plans for 2014.
So that means there will likely be a race or five or 10 or more without Martin, Schrader and Burton, along with Bobby Labonte, who didn't run at Homestead, in 2014. Given their ubiquity throughout recent NASCAR history, that will take some getting used to.
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