Martin reveals he's racing in Pepsi 400 in July

Updated: February 20, 2007, 9:38 AM ET
By Marty Smith | ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The ink on Mark Martin's 2007 Nextel Cup calendar boasts 22 races in the No. 01 Chevrolet. But if you flip to July, to the small box hosting his July 7 to-do list, the pencil markings suggest another story.

Mark Martin
AP Photo/J. Pat CarterMark Martin came closer to winning the Daytona 500 than he ever has before. The veteran has started the race 23 times without a victory.

The Pepsi 400? That wasn't on the original slate.

It is now.

Martin told ESPN.com Monday that the July 7 race at Daytona International Speedway was on his docket all along, but he chose to wait and see the outcome of Speed Weeks. He had more fun than he's ever had. No pressure.

And, oh yeah, he nearly won the Daytona 500.

"If I came out real frustrated I would blow [the July race] off, but if it went as well as I anticipated it would, it was one I wanted to run, as well," Martin said. "It went better than I thought it would."

Martin stressed we not get carried away with this. He doesn't desire to run the entire slate, though some of his colleagues think otherwise.

"Matt Kenseth has 200 bucks that says I'm going to run them all -- and he's so tight he squeaks when he walks," Martin laughed. "I think he'll lose the money.

"Winning [the Daytona 500] wouldn't have changed at all how I feel about things. I've learned to never say never, so I'm not going to do that. But I'm very happy and comfortable with my schedule, and even if we'd have won the race I'm just thrilled with what I have laid out in front of me."

But if he gets the itch?

"If I want to change [my schedule] I have that luxury," he said. "I haven't gone and asked [to run the whole schedule], but I can tell you they haven't said no to anything else. I don't think that'd be a problem, but I also don't think that'll happen."

Martin's current projected schedule is quite front-loaded. He knows he might get bored in the second half of the year.

"I may look at 2008 and it's possible I'll rethink the way I lay [my schedule] out," Martin said. "It's going to be a lot less-heavy pace in the second half and I look forward to making the most out of that, and have to say that after the Bristol race [in March] I'll probably know a lot more about how I feel about things."

Why? He won't be there. The Food City 500 will mark the first race since Valentine's Day 1988 that Martin won't be in the Cup Series field. That's 617 straight races.

Martin is scheduled to be in Lake City, Fla., that weekend to be Ricky Carmichael's crew chief in a late-model race. That's right, crew chief.

"I can't spot for [son] Matt," Martin chuckled. "They always seem to run better when I'm not around, so I figure I'll stay away and just talk to Ricky, cheerlead for Matt.

"I'm really at peace with everything. The Daytona 500 was great. Really, really great, because some of the things I said came true -- it really was my best chance ever [to win]."

Marty Smith covers Nextel Cup for ESPN.com.

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