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Thursday, September 8, 2005
Updated: September 9, 1:01 PM ET
Martin says he'll likely be back in No. 6 car

Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. -- The only thing that brought a frown to Mark Martin's face after his victory in the International Race of Champions event was a question about his future.

The native of Batesville, Ark., has said this would be his final season in Jack Roush's No. 6 Cup car, and a reporter asked him if he still might consider racing in IROC again next year if invited to take part in the four-race all-star series as the defending champion.

The 46-year-old Martin acknowledged that was a possibility, then added, "It really looks like I'm going to be in the 6 car next year. It's looking more and more like that all the time."

Martin beat Kurt Busch, his teammate at Roush Racing and the reigning Nextel Cup champion, by 2 feet on Thursday night. Shortly after, he was informed all he needs to do to wrap up his fifth IROC championship -- breaking a tie for the record with the late Dale Earnhardt -- is start the final race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Oct. 29.

Martin said he had planned to spend next season driving a handful of Busch Series races, as well as racing for his own new team in NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series. But things got complicated recently when team owner Jack Roush signed Jamie McMurray away from Chip Ganassi Racing.

McMurray signed for 2007, with the hope that he or Roush could convince Ganassi not to pick up his option for 2006. Ganassi has refused to let McMurray go next season, though, apparently leaving Roush a driver short.

Instead of trying to find an interim driver, Roush has begged Martin, who came to the Cup series with Roush in 1988, to help him out and stay on for one more year.

Apparently, Martin has indeed decided to continue in the No. 6 through 2006.

"I've had to change my plans," Martin said, shrugging and making a face. "My first truck is already done and I was looking forward to that. I was going to do a limited Busch schedule and a full truck schedule in 2006.

"Now, I'm trying to back out of the deal, if I can. I can't do 10 Busch races, 25 Truck races and 36 Cup races. I thought I was going to slow down, not race more."

Martin, a four-time runner-up in the Cup series, has had a strong 2005 season, with six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 25 starts. He has already clinched a spot in the 10-race Chase for the Nextel Cup championship.

He added a record 13th IROC victory to that Thursday night at Richmond International Raceway.

Busch appeared on the way to an easy victory in the 90-lap race. He took the lead on the third lap on the three-quarter-mile oval and stayed out front nearly to the end.

But it was Martin who wound up beating Busch in a two-lap shootout after the last of six caution flags in the race. Martin won by just 0.021-seconds in the race for identically prepared IROC Pontiacs.

"I knew on the last restart, I had to get going," Martin said. "I got a great jump. I knew I was ahead a little bit coming off [turn] four, then he got to rubbing me a little bit and I could feel the wind got him and he started to get the momentum. The finish line got there just in time."