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.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:51 PM EST
It lasts only four months, but there’ll be lots of action on the schedule for the 2015 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.
Dec 18, 2014, 9:26 PM EST
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be slinging some pre-Christmas dirt this Saturday in an all-star sprint car race in DuQuoin, Ill.
Dec 18, 2014, 8:50 PM EST
One of Kurt Busch’s sponsors has joined team owner Gene Haas in backing the driver in his ongoing dispute with ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:31 PM EST
Want to have a good laugh or two? Check out all of the bloopers and behind-the-scenes fun from NASCAR America over this past year.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:18 PM EST
NASCAR announced that a Camping World Truck Series crew member has been suspended for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy.
Dec 18, 2014, 6:00 PM EST
RoC, Mecum, and two F1 “Road To:” specials make for motors block on NBCSN tonight starting at 7 p.m. ET.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
Will Power is a closet breakdancer? Who knew? Find out in the latest edition of The Penske Files.
Dec 18, 2014, 4:00 PM EST
Sauber’s 2015 car is the second to pass crash test.
Dec 18, 2014, 3:28 PM EST
No Franchitti in 2015 as CGR announces Rolex 24 lineup.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
Penske’s newest star to head to NFL’s biggest game.
Dec 18, 2014, 2:21 PM EST
Darrell Wallace Jr. joins Roush Fenway Racing.
Top NASCAR stories of 2014: No. 13 – Chase Elliott wins final Nationwide Series championship at record age
Dec 18, 2014, 2:00 PM EST
In less than one year, Chase Elliott went from the driver of a start-up team to the youngest champion in NASCAR history.
Dec 18, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Almirola broke into the Chase for the Sprint Cup with a rain-shortened win at Daytona in the summer.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:45 PM EST
The engineer market is busy in F1, as well.
Dec 18, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
Kasey Kahne struggled at times in 2014, but there’s great promise for 2015 with a new contract, new crew chief and an extension from his primary sponsor.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:46 AM EST
Di Montezemolo and Walsh now part of F1’s controlling shareholder Board of Directors.
Dec 18, 2014, 11:11 AM EST
Menards stays with RCR’s XFINITY program.
Dec 18, 2014, 10:30 AM EST
Second SPM IndyCar seat up for grabs.
Dec 17, 2014, 8:47 PM EST
NASCAR revealed the 2015 schedules for the Whelen Modified Tour and its Southwest Modified Tour, including a first-time visit at the legendary Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway.
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