- Associated Press - Friday, July 23, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Mark Martin tried being polite. Really, really tried.

For weeks the NASCAR veteran has respectfully addressed speculation about his future, saying he has no plans to leave his job driving the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports next year to make way for the recently signed Kasey Kahne.

Frankly, he’s tired of talking about it. He plans on returning to Hendrick in 2011. Period.

“I feel very disrespected when the media doesn’t accept that because what that means is that you make me look like I’m about to get fired,” Martin said Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “That’s very disrespectful.”

Though the 51-year-old acknowledged his team has struggled at times this season, he’s not plotting a graceful exit.

“I’ve made myself perfectly clear over the last several weeks,” he said. “There’s no inclination of any change, but I will tell you this: there is no road map for me and my future. So don’t even start thinking about criticizing what I do in 2012 or beyond, because I don’t know.”

Not everyone is convinced.

Ray Evernham, who won three Cup titles as a crew chief for Jeff Gordon while working for Hendrick and now works as a TV analyst, believes if Martin races in 2011, it will be in a different car.

“I won’t be surprised if in the next 3-4 weeks that Mark makes some kind of announcement that says ‘Hey Rick Hendrick has been good to me, the best thing I can do for him is to make room for Kasey,’” he said.

Kahne signed with Hendrick Motorsports in April to drive the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2012. The deal called for Hendrick to find a place for Kahne next season while he waits for his seat to open.

Owner Rick Hendrick dismissed a report last month that Kahne would drive for Phoenix Racing in 2011, saying he’s still weighing his options.

Until Kahne’s situation is sorted out, Martin knows chatter over his plans will persist.

“I understand it will all be put to rest whenever they announce what Kasey’s going to do. I understand that,” he said. “You should be focused on that. What is Kasey going to do? Because I’ve told you what I’m going to do.”

Namely, drive. Though Martin admits he has no idea what he’ll do after 2011, he’s enjoying his resurgence at Hendrick. He won five races a year ago and is 14th in the points heading into Sunday’s 400-mile race at the Brickyard.

“I’m at the point in my career where I get to do whatever in the heck I want to do,” he said. “Racing is my life. And I don’t know what I’ll do if I was to ever lose that. And I’m not going to lose that anytime soon.”

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