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.
Nov 22, 2014, 7:00 AM EST
The British racer will test for Force India next week, but thinks he chances of getting a full-time seat are slim.
Nov 22, 2014, 6:30 AM EST
Red Bull team boss thinks it is the right time for both the driver and the team to part company.
Nov 22, 2014, 6:04 AM EST
Nico strikes back in FP3, edging out Hamilton by three-tenths of a second.
Nov 22, 2014, 4:45 AM EST
Nico Rosberg must stop Lewis Hamilton’s dominance in practice if he is to put the pressure on for qualifying.
Nov 22, 2014, 2:33 AM EST
A nifty early move for the lead and masterful power conservation gives Bird the win in Malaysia.
Nov 21, 2014, 10:22 PM EST
Prost will start tonight’s Putrajaya ePrix from 11th, while Oriol Servia and Jerome d’Ambrosio of Dragon Racing will be at the head of the field.
Nov 21, 2014, 8:27 PM EST
The Virgin Racing pilot takes top honors in a 75-minute practice session ahead of qualifying and tonight’s Putrajaya ePrix.
Nov 21, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team had to go through a lot in 2014 to win the Sprint Cup title. NASCAR AMERICA’s Rick Allen and Kyle Petty discuss.
Nov 21, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
Kevin Harvick’s four-tire call late at Homestead proved to be the difference in his title-clinching victory last weekend. NASCAR AMERICA discuss how pit strategy made an impact.
Nov 21, 2014, 4:48 PM EST
His Athenian Motorsports team will switch to Chevrolet and get Hendrick engines for its dual programs.
Nov 21, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
A quick primer on F1′s pit stops.
Nov 21, 2014, 4:01 PM EST
This is Fast & Furious stuff.
Nov 21, 2014, 3:30 PM EST
Marcos Ambrose’ V8 Supercars ride revealed.
Nov 21, 2014, 3:00 PM EST
You say you need a NASCAR fix? Well, don’t worry, Friday is the final installment of our NASCAR America – Scan All 43 episodes, entitled “NASCAR America: Scan All 43 – Championship Edition.”
Nov 21, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Lewis Hamilton sent out a statement of intent during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix today, beating Nico Rosberg in both practice sessions.
Nov 21, 2014, 2:15 PM EST
Replacing Tom Kristensen will be no easy task at Audi.
Nov 21, 2014, 1:45 PM EST
Electrical failure in FP2 robs the Spaniard of some much-needed track time after sunset in Abu Dhabi.
Nov 21, 2014, 1:15 PM EST
Hamilton and Rosberg leaving nothing in reserve as they fight for the F1 drivers’ championship in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Video from NASCAR America
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