After crossing the finish line a mere 0.011 seconds in front of Earnhardt Ganassi driver Jaime McMurray, Kevin Harvick driver of the No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Richard Childress Chevrolet, was treated to more good news after breaking his 115-race winless streak in Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Harvick, who had just found out a few days earlier that he would be losing his sponsor for the 2011 season, was approached by Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin after the win with an offer to drive for the team which he will start up after the 2010 season comes to an end.
Martin has made it clear that he will retire after his contract with Hendrick Motorsports expires at the end of the 2011 season, and his lifelong dream had been to someday own a Sprint cup team.
During a news conference on Friday at the speedway, Rick Hendrick admitted he was intrigued by the fact that Martin recently mentioned he might ultimately be interested in owning his own race team.
Hendrick added that he would be willing to assist Martin in that endeavor, and with the announcement by James Finch that he was putting his Phoenix Racing operation up for sale, Martin couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Martin along with Hendricks’s assistance will be purchasing a 70,000 sq. ft. building complete with 35 race cars, all the machinery and two houses on nine acres in Spartanburg, S.C.
After inking the deal with Martin and Hendrick, Finch commented that, “It’s time to do something else. They made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I just don’t want to go broke trying to outrun the manufacturers—whether that’s Jack Roush, Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs, or Roger Penske.”
Martin said he never expected for Hendrick to respond to Finch’s offer this quickly, but seeing that Finch was already getting his equipment from HMS it made perfect sense.
“All of this happening a little to fast for me, and I figured it would take at least a year or two to put something together,” said Martin after finding out that he will be a team owner a lot sooner than expected.
Martin also added that, “Rick has been really supportive of me since I first came over in 2009.
"He has treated me like a son, and I never expected him to say he would be willing to help me get my team started.”
“Mark has been a very valuable asset to the team as well as a positive role model, which is what I expect out of all my drivers as well as my employees,” said Hendrick during the afternoon news press conference.
Hendrick also added this when talking about the type of owner Martin will make. “Mark is a very well-respected driver around the garages, as well as the communities that the series visits.
"These traits are not easily found, and because of them I don’t see Mark having any problems drawing fans to his team.”
Harvick made it clear last season that he wanted out of his contract with RCR, stating that RCR was not headed in the direction that he would have liked them to, which in turn would have hindered his chances at winning a championship.
As of late, Harvick seemed to have a change of heart after hearing that Richard Petty Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne, had signed a five-year contract with Hendrick Motorsports.
Harvick had to be feeling that to some degree his options were not as widespread as he thought they were, when he confessed on Friday that his future would most likely continue with RCR.
"Richard Childress and myself have a great relationship, and we've been talking about a lot of things for several months," Harvick said.
Harvick also added, "The cars are running well, everybody is communicating well, and I don't know what else to say other than Richard and I have had many, many, many, many, many, many, many conversations over the last several months.”
“My intentions were to never hire him back, with most of the reasoning coming from all the negativity he has been showing towards the team the last couple of years,” said Childress when told that Harvick is no longer available.
Childress also mentioned he was not happy with the way Harvick made it known at towards the end of last season, that he no longer wanted to be part of the team.
“Kevin never once approached me about wanting to leave the team, until the story leaked that he was not happy here at RCR,” said Childress.
Childress added this when asked about the way Harvick handled last year's decision to leave the team: “I was also waiting until the end of the 2010 season, and at the last minute was going to let him know through the media that his services were no longer needed.”
Harvick will no longer have to worry about trying to mend a bad relationship with RCR, since he knows where he will be in 2011.
Martin did not mention who Harvick’s sponsor will be nor did he mention what number he will be driving, but he did say his new crew chief would be Tony Eury Jr. who Hendrick was throwing in as a retirement present.
Martin did say that another driver possibility could be Jamie McMurray, who only signed a one-year deal to drive for Earnhardt Ganassi.
Team owner Jack Roush of Roush Fenway Racing, was asked about his nemesis Rick Hendrick being allowed to field three teams with seven different drivers (Hendrick Motorsports, Stewart Haas Racing, and Mark Martin Racing), when he was told that he could only have a four car stable?
“So?” was Roush’s reply.