INDIANAPOLIS Team owner Rick Hendrick won't force Mark Martin out of his seat next year to make room for Kasey Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports.
Kahne has signed to take over the No. 5 Chevrolet in 2012, and Martin is slated to drive the car through the end of next season. He's remained adamant that he won't get out of the car a year early, and Hendrick said before Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that he's planning on Martin driving the No. 5 next season.
"We have a deal with Mark, and we're going to honor that," Hendrick said. "We want to honor that. Kasey's known that. That's kind of where we are."
But Hendrick must find a place to stash Kahne next season, and by not announcing a plan yet, the speculation has persisted that Martin won't be back at Hendrick Motorsports next season.
The intensity picked up this weekend when Ray Evernham, the former championship-winning crew chief for Hendrick and current ESPN analyst, suggested Martin will ultimately step aside for Kahne.
Some in the garage suggested that Evernham was doing Hendrick's "dirty work" by publicly suggesting Martin should bow out.
"I don't need anybody to do dirty work for me," Hendrick said. "If I have anything I want done, I'll go to the people. I won't have somebody else doing it or speaking for me.
"Mark has made a heck of contribution to our organization's path and still is. I wish Mark could drive four, five more years."