Skip to content

Mark Martin: An appreciation, if this is the last time

Nov 13, 2013, 3:00 PM EDT

IRWIN Tools Night Race - Practice Getty Images

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.

Maybe.

And with Mark, it couldn’t be done any other way.

Latest Posts
  1. NASCAR: Rudd, Jarrett, Bobby Labonte look back on Brickyard 400 triumphs

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:33 PM EDT

    Ricky Rudd Getty Images

    Time has not lessened the significance of winning at Indy for these three NASCAR standouts.

  2. NASCAR: This time at Indy, it’s just stock cars for Kurt Busch

    Jul 22, 2014, 7:13 PM EDT

    (Photo: Scott Halleran/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The Outlaw returns to Indianapolis for the first time since his Indy 500-Coke 600 double back in May.

  3. IndyCar: Want Juan Pablo Montoya’s penthouse? It’ll cost you – a lot

    Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT

    montoya3 Getty Images

    The Team Penske pilot is putting up his six-bedroom Miami penthouse for a cool $14 million. Better start saving up…

  4. NASCAR: Roush camp looking for speed in Michigan test

    Jul 22, 2014, 4:10 PM EDT

    AAA Texas 500 Getty Images

    Seeking to catch up with their Ford stablemates at Team Penske, Roush Fenway Racing’s trio of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. have been searching for speed in a two-day test session at Michigan International Speedway.

  5. Indy’s new scoring pylon is quite colorful (PHOTOS)

    Jul 22, 2014, 3:00 PM EDT

    Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

    The new, 92-foot pylon is made up of four LED panels capable of video animations that relay race info to fans.

  6. MRTI: Cape’s Toronto sweep; Burkett’s latest videos; other odds and ends

    Jul 22, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    MazdaRoadToIndy

    Recapping the future stars of IndyCar in action at Toronto this weekend.

  7. Report: Mexican Grand Prix set for 2015 return?

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:47 PM EDT

    Grand Premio Tecate Getty Images

    A report from Mexico says that Bernie Ecclestone has signed a five-year pact to bring F1 to Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez starting next season.

  8. IndyCar: Hinchcliffe continues to endure home race house of horrors

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    HinchTOR3 Getty Images

    A miserable home weekend in Toronto strikes James Hinchcliffe yet again.

  9. Claire Williams gives vote of confidence for Felipe Massa

    Jul 22, 2014, 12:41 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    Williams’ deputy team principal on Massa: “He is mature enough – and has enough experience in the sport – to realize that sometimes, things don’t go your way.”

  10. Realistically, could Toronto IndyCar shift date to CTMP?

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:55 AM EDT

    CTMPWide Getty Images

    Given politics, dates and dreams, could an IndyCar race at CTMP be possible?

  11. Formula E: Jerome d’Ambrosio confirmed with Dragon Racing

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT

    JDAFE Getty Images

    Ex-F1 shoe Jerome d’Ambrosio gets signed up for new FE series.

  12. Kyle Larson, Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan featured in Cottonelle ads (VIDEO)

    Jul 22, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    LarsonCottonelle Getty Images

    Kyle Larson’s got a new house, a new kid on the way and now a new Cottonelle ad he might not be able to live down.

  13. Report: Toto Wolff speaks out against F1′s double points finale

    Jul 22, 2014, 10:08 AM EDT

    Spanish F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

    Mercedes’ Toto Wolff calls double points “unfair.”

  14. IndyCar: Toronto weekend analysis, musings and observations

    Jul 22, 2014, 9:25 AM EDT

    TorontoAnalysis Getty Images

    MST’s Tony DiZinno recaps the weekend in Toronto, that featured a host of surprises.

  15. IndyCar: Gaps grow, but few major changes in points over last month

    Jul 22, 2014, 8:26 AM EDT

    TorontoLeadPts Getty Images

    The stretch of six races in four weekends is over, as is the stretch of doubleheader weekends for the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season. Here’s the points breakdown.

  16. Chase Elliott keeps winning, but he’s not finished capturing checkered flags this season by any stretch

    Jul 22, 2014, 1:38 AM EDT

    Chase Elliott after Saturday's win at Chicagoland Speedway. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) AP

    With the third win of his rookie Nationwide Series career, Chase Elliott continued to make it look easy in this past Saturday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

  17. NASCAR: Bubba Wallace prepares for Eldora’s “Mudsummer Classic” (VIDEO)

    Jul 21, 2014, 8:05 PM EDT

    (Photo: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) Getty Images

    For Wallace and his Truck Series rivals, racing on dirt presents a different set of challenges – and thus requires a different way to train.

  18. NASCAR’s Brian France on RTA’s formation: “We didn’t think it was necessary”

    Jul 21, 2014, 7:01 PM EDT

    Brian France AP

    In a satellite radio interview, France shared his thoughts on the consortium of NASCAR’s most powerful teams.

  19. IMSA: IndyCar rookie Hawksworth to make sports car debut in Brickyard GP

    Jul 21, 2014, 6:02 PM EDT

    Jack Hawksworth AP

    Jack Hawksworth will co-drive the No. 08 Prototype Challenge car for RSR Racing in Friday’s IMSA event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

  20. Eldora and Indy putting a lot on Tony Stewart’s plate

    Jul 21, 2014, 5:10 PM EDT

    Will the 16th time be the charm for Tony Stewart in Sunday's Daytona 500? Getty Images

    Between his Eldora Speedway hosting the Truck Series and then competing at Indianapolis this weekend in Sprint Cup, Stewart’s in the middle of a busy week.

More from NASCAR America

Keselowski in championship form

Featured video

Inside scoop with Adrian Sutil
Top 10 NASCAR Driver Searches