Cooperation, healthy respect made Martin to Stewart deal possible

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When asked how many parties were needed to sign off on Mark Martin’s filling in for Tony Stewart for all but one of the remaining 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Stewart-Haas Racing competition director Greg Zipadelli was candidly vague.

“A lot,” Zipadelli said, without putting an actual number on it. “To be honest with you it just kind of happened. Everyone was very cooperative. Hat’s off to MWR. It’s them getting a jump start, too. It’s that simple, that casual of a conversation. It could help Stewart Haas Racing and MWR both.”

The breakdown of races for the rest of 2013 is Martin will run 12 of the 13 events for SHR, and his Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Brian Vickers will now run 12 of the final 13 in the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota. The exception will be at Talladega as Austin Dillon (SHR) and Michael Waltrip (MWR) will take over the Nos. 14 and 55.

Martin expressed a wealth of gratitude for the opportunity. It’s his fifth different new team since he and Roush Racing parted ways at the end of 2006 (Ginn/DEI, Hendrick Motorsports, MWR, Joe Gibbs Racing).

“I’m incredibly honored,” Martin said. “The guy is so amazing; he’s the modern day A.J. Foyt. He drove anything and everything and was fast. Tony is a guy that really does that. We’ve been good friends for quite some time with amazing mutual respect. It’s an honor to be in this situation where we’re able to do this. I’m really, really sorry that it comes as his expense.

“One thing I do want to say, is that there is an amazing amount of cooperation to get this deal done by so many parties,” he added. “I haven’t seen this much cooperation in the past. It’s largely in part because the incredibly amount of respect in this sport for Tony Stewart.”

Pressed on 2014 plans, Martin wasn’t biting because he knows the mountainous task ahead the rest of this year.

“I don’t have a plan, and I have much less of a plan right now than a week ago,” Martin said. “I was part-time, and now I’m racing all but one race, with what I feel is a lot of challenges and pressure. I don’t want to think about 2014 at all right now.”

“But you know my motivation is not for points; it’s for racing. If I’m running 20th, I’ll bust my butt to run 19th.”

Reaction to INDYCAR/NBC Sports Group announcement: Mario Andretti, Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal and social media

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Like countless others on the East Coast, Mario Andretti was fighting through a snowstorm Wednesday morning.

But emotionally and personally, it was a very bright and sunny day for the legendary Indy car driver.

In an exclusive interview with, Andretti spoke in glowing terms about this morning’s announcement of a multi-year media rights partnership between INDYCAR and NBC Sports Group beginning next year.

“I think this is awesome,” Andretti said. “It’s music to my ears and all of us. NBC has been very familiar with IndyCar racing, so they’re a great partner. I’m elated that it’s all nailed down, secured and I’m looking forward to the future.

“It’s also great for the young lads in Indy Lights coming on, and it’s great for all the sponsors to have that kind of exposure. It’s a good day for INDYCAR today.”

Andretti lauded the fact that all elements of INDYCAR coverage – TV, digital and streaming – will now be under one corporate roof, so to speak.

“Personally, I think it’s huge,” Andretti said. “Everybody is going to be very familiar with everything, the storylines are going to flow perfectly from event to event. There’s nothing like continuity.

“It’s okay sometimes if you have two networks, but to me, the best possible solution is this. That’s why I think this is really a great day for INDYCAR racing to have NBC involved and the continuity is huge for us.”

MORE: NBC Sports Group, INDYCAR partner on new TV and digital rights agreement starting in 2019

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Several other high-profile individuals within the IndyCar community also gave their take on Wednesday’s announcement, including statements from team owners Roger Penske and Bobby Rahal.

Roger Penske: “As an industry, we are very fortunate to have the NBC Sports Group grow their presence and coverage of INDYCAR racing and really invest in the future of the sport. We believe there is a great deal of positive momentum in the Verizon IndyCar Series right now, from the development of the new race car, to the very talented group of young drivers and new teams coming into the sport this season.

“With the announcement of the enhanced broadcast partnership with NBC, it certainly adds to the excitement for the future. We know that the ways our fans are watching races and viewing INDYCAR content is rapidly changing, so staying ahead of the curve and the developing technology with our partners is important to the growth of our sport. We look forward to working with the NBC team to continue to build INDYCAR and take the sport in new directions.

“We also need to thank ABC and ESPN for all their terrific coverage over the years. The ABC network helped bring some of the most memorable moments in racing to life – including many of our team’s Indianapolis 500 victories – and we appreciate all of their hard work and passion for INDYCAR racing.”

Bobby Rahal: “It’s great news. I think the fact that the IndyCar Series will be under one roof, so to speak, network-wise can do nothing but great things for our sport. To increase to having eight races on network TV is also great news of course.

“The quality of the NBC broadcasts have gotten better and better over the last several years. They do a great job of providing interesting and entertaining content for the viewers and I think that will only continue to grow with the relationship going forward. That type of storytelling is also what helps bring new fans to the sport.”



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