Mark Martin Comes Out of Semi-Retirement -- Replaces Mears Next Year

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Mark Martin is returning to NASCAR full time, agreeing to drive for powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports in a final effort to win a championship that has eluded him for 24 years.

Martin and team owner Rick Hendrick announced the deal pairing the 48-year-old driver with one of NASCAR's top teams, Friday at Daytona International Speedway.

Martin will race a full schedule next season, replacing Casey Mears in the No. 5 Chevrolet. Hendrick is parting ways with Mears after this season.

Martin has won 32 races in 710 career starts that began in 1981. A perennial title contender, he finished 2nd in the standings an agonizing four times, including his runner-up finish to Tony Stewart in 2002.

He considered retiring at the end of the 2005 season, but was coaxed back for one final season with Roush Fenway Racing. He finished 9th in the standings that season.

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