Nov 13, 2013, 3:00 PM EST
Mark Martin is NASCAR’s version of Brett Favre. Legendary, beloved, but always questioning when will be the right time to hang up his helmet.
Sure, he hasn’t been as polarizing, especially to one particular fan base.
But he has made a habit for the last decade of asking “Will I?” or “Won’t I?” about his racing in NASCAR for the following year.
Martin said last week that while he won’t use the r-word – retirement – he hasn’t accepted any deals to race in NASCAR in 2014.
Already we have one of his former owners questioning that statement. Rick Hendrick said this weekend at Phoenix “I bet he comes back,” in a story posted to AZCentral.com.
And the reasons are obvious. Even at 54, and he’ll be 55 in January, Martin remains one of NASCAR’s strongest, most motivated, and most popular individuals.
Beyond his driving, his workout routine is legendary; his love of good rap music appreciated by fans both casual and hardcore.
And on-track, he’s still at the top of the list when it comes to filling in, too. For 10 years, Martin has wrestled with the question of whether to give it up entirely, but teams have consistently sought his services.
He nearly won the 2007 Daytona 500 with unheralded Ginn Racing, missing out to Kevin Harvick by mere inches.
In his first full season in three years, in 2009, Martin won five races and finished second in the championship only behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. It was his best season in 11 years.
Just this year, Michael Waltrip Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing have called on Martin to provide a leadership role or fill the seat when one of their respective big names has got hurt.
Brian Vickers’ comeback to Cup for 2014 at MWR came with paying tribute to Martin’s mentoring. Tony Stewart – himself never one to dole out too many platitudes to his competitors – is in awe of what Martin’s been able to accomplish, and the perfect choice to fill in due to his own injuries.
Statistically, Martin’s 2013 will go down as one of his least successful in 31 years and more than 880 Cup starts. He’ll have started 28 of 36 races, with one top-five, five top-10s (unless he finishes well Sunday), and finished outside the top-25 in the points standings.
But stats, lately, don’t matter with Martin as much as what he means to the sport.
He’ll go down in history as one of the best drivers to have ever raced in NASCAR, even though he’s never won a championship, or a Daytona 500.
He enjoys a rare level of admiration and respect among his peers. He’s continued to press on in an era where younger drivers have taken over the sport in the last 10 years or so, and are poised to do so even more in the next 5-10 years.
His outpouring of support to the fans – rare did an interview pass when he didn’t take an opportunity to thank them – has been returned in spades. If it wasn’t for Bill Elliott or Dale Earnhardt Jr. hogging it, you can bet Mark Martin would have won multiple “Most Popular Driver” awards.
And on Sunday, he plans to hang it up after one last round of 400 miles.
And with Mark, it couldn’t be done any other way.
Mar 6, 2014, 9:45 PM EST
Phoenix winner only driver north of 190mph in Las Vegas test.
Mar 6, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
BHA rookie admits slight surprise in taking the reins of team’s No. 98 entry.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:45 PM EST
Series seeks marketing/promotional growth to match solid on-track product.
Mar 6, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler to continue in AIM-run Ferrari in TUDOR Championship.
Mar 6, 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Regulations change plus a solid preseason leaves Sir Frank bullish on Williams’ 2014 outlook.
Mar 6, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
NASCAR’s open test takes place this afternoon and into the early evening at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Kobalt 400, the third round of the already-flying 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Mar 6, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Actor Jonathan Goldsmith to give “the Most Interesting Command in the World.”
Driver, team owner and now actor: Tony Stewart’s first edition of ‘Smoke is The Bandit’ is released (video)
Mar 6, 2014, 3:03 PM EST
After teasing us a few days ago with a brief video of what was to come, the first episode of Smokey Is The Bandit, featuring NASCAR star Tony Stewart, is out.
Mar 6, 2014, 2:19 PM EST
Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria is already having a dream season – and she’s only two races into the 24-race 2014 NHRA schedule.
Mar 6, 2014, 1:38 PM EST
Although this is no laughing matter, one of comedian Larry the Cable Guy’s signature lines — “That ain’t right” – is quite appropriate in this instance. According to MotorAuthority.com, Chrysler officials have recalled 93 Dodge Vipers that were donated to schools and colleges around the U.S. for educational purposes. But the cars aren’t being recalled…
Mar 6, 2014, 12:31 PM EST
NHRA star Antron Brown is watching the career of budding NASCAR star Darrell “Bubba” Wallace quite closely.
Mar 6, 2014, 12:26 PM EST
For the first time in more than 30 years, the name “Bernstein” will not be on the qualifying grid for next week’s NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla.
Mar 6, 2014, 11:30 AM EST
Pop quiz: Who has been the most consistent driver in Sprint Cup over nearly the last dozen races, dating back to the latter part of last season?
Mar 6, 2014, 10:35 AM EST
It’s been a question for the ages: which is faster, the Snake or the Mongoo$e? It’s a question that was arguably one of the most-asked during the late 1960s and 1970s when Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoo$e” (yes, there was a $ instead of an “s”) McEwen engaged in one of the…
Mar 6, 2014, 9:45 AM EST
Rider learns from Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden before sampling HPD simulator.
Mar 6, 2014, 9:24 AM EST
Iconic lines, livery return to F1 aboard the FW36-Mercedes.
Mar 5, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
Simon Pagenaud, Mikhail Aleshin lap the Homestead-Miami road course on Tuesday.
Mar 5, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Potential new family addition for Menard could see Crafton make his Sprint Cup debut.
Mar 5, 2014, 5:00 PM EST
Fresh livery for the 88 at Las Vegas.
Mar 5, 2014, 4:30 PM EST
It’s the day before an open test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of the third round of the already-flying 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Today, on NASCAR AMERICA (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online on NBC Sports Live Extra), there will be more of a preview of the 400-mile race that sees…
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- Williams launches new livery, confirms Martini partnership 3
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- Instead of significant improvement, 2014 starting off the way 2013 ended for Danica Patrick (10)
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- Alonso discovers an F1 take on Ellen’s Oscar “Selfie” (6)
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- BHA announces The Collection Auto Group and Castrol as sponsors; driver TBD (5)