Nov 13, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT
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.
May 28, 2015, 6:49 PM EDT
With the completion of the Kansas Nationals this past Sunday, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series has reached the one-third point of the 2015 season.
May 28, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Ex-F1 driver ponders whether Hamilton’s trust in Mercedes may have taken a hit after his Monaco defeat.
May 28, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT
FIA looking for more teams to join the sport in the next two seasons.
May 28, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
After Williams recorded its first non-score since Brazil 2013 in Monaco, Bottas is sure that the team will respond in Montreal next weekend.
May 28, 2015, 1:30 PM EDT
25 years on from Mark Blundell’s pole position at Le Mans, Nissan pays homage with a retro livery on its third car for the race.
May 28, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Alan Permane claims the data on Grosjean’s car shows he did not brake-test Verstappen and cause their crash in Monaco last Sunday.
May 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT
FIA president responds to calls for a stricter policy on alcohol sponsorship in F1.
May 28, 2015, 9:45 AM EDT
Andreas Bakkerud will fill in for Piquet while he’s on Formula E duty in Russia.
May 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff took part in a Twitter Q&A earlier this week.
May 28, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Two-time series champion looks ahead to a big year in Red Bull GRC with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.
May 28, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Gossage and Walker are in contact about how to best move forward with super speedway aero kits ahead of June 6 IndyCar race.
May 28, 2015, 7:30 AM EDT
No. 63 driver tops $61,000 raised for Susan G. Komen this month.
May 27, 2015, 4:57 PM EDT
The last seven races held in Detroit have been won by a different driver.
May 27, 2015, 4:17 PM EDT
Penalties doled out after the Indy 500, most notably to the No. 19 and 98 teams for pit incidents.
May 27, 2015, 2:08 PM EDT
Gonzalez returns to No. 18 car after running it in the Grand Prix of Alabama.
May 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT
After three straight top-five finishes, Graham Rahal returns to the site of his only 2014 podium.
May 27, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT
Ahead of the Red Bull GRC season, Tanner Foust and Scott Speed look for better luck in the pair of Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross Beetles.
May 27, 2015, 12:28 PM EDT
Charlie Kimball says his team has hit its stride after two straight top-five finishes.
May 27, 2015, 11:28 AM EDT
Hinch heads home.
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