It's Martin's call on No. 5, Hendrick says

Updated: July 28, 2010, 3:06 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Rick Hendrick says he's prepared to honor Mark Martin's deal to drive the No. 5 Sprint Cup car next season but he wouldn't close the door on Kasey Kahne stepping into that seat.

Kahne
Kahne
Martin
Martin

"If I tell you what I will do and what I won't do and if I do something different because I haven't thought about it, then you'll think I lied to you,'' the owner of Hendrick Motorsports said before Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I'm keeping all options open whether it's with Chevrolet or something else. I'm trying to make everybody happy, all our sponsors, NASCAR.

"If it wasn't for NASCAR it would be real easy. I'd have five cars and I wouldn't be going through all of this.''

Martin insists he will be in the No. 5 in 2011 despite speculation that he will step aside for Kahne. Three months ago, Kahne signed to drive the car in 2012, with the promise Hendrick would get him a ride for 2011.

Asked whether there was any way Mark wouldn't be in the No. 5 next year, Hendrick said: "I can't tell you that. Right now it's his seat and it's his call.''

Speculation on his future has irritated Martin to the point he says he's been disrespected. It resurfaced on Friday when ESPN analyst Ray Evernham, who won three championships with Jeff Gordon at HMS, said he expected Martin to announce in three to four weeks he would step aside in 2011 for Kahne.

Hendrick Mark has made a heck of a contribution to our organization and still is. I wish he could drive four or five more years.

-- Team owner Rick Hendrick

That led to speculation that Hendrick was letting Evernham get his message out.

"I don't need somebody to do my dirty work for me,'' Hendrick said. "If I want something done I'll go to the people. I won't have somebody else do it or have speaking for me.

"Mark has made a heck of a contribution to our organization and still is. I wish he could drive four or five more years.''

Hendrick said finding a solution for his situation has been tougher than he expected trying to mesh sponsors, manufacturers and drivers to make everyone happy. He understands Martin's frustration.

"It pissed Mark off,'' he said. "I take 100 percent [blame]. But I never signed a driver this early. We do have a lot of options because you've got to make everything fit with the sponsors and everything else.

"It's just a very complicated deal. At the same time, I've got ideas and I want to make it best for everybody involved.''

Among the options that have been ruled out by the teams involved are putting a driver at Stewart-Haas Racing and JR Motorsports. Other options include putting Kahne or Martin in a car at Phoenix Racing with HMS support or another Chevrolet organization such as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.

Hendrick did not have a timetable for an announcement.

"I haven't made any decisions yet,'' Hendrick said. "We've been close a couple of times but nothing we wanted to do. There's still a lot of options. We're just trying to wait to see what's best.''

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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