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. As Justin Wilson is remembered, Oriol Servia hopes he did the car, family proud (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:39 PM EDT

    ServiaRecap AP

    It wasn’t the result, but the strength, of Oriol Servia in Justin Wilson’s car this weekend that shown through.

  2. Power, Newgarden and Castroneves run out of luck in championship hunt (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT

    Will Power, Josef Newgarden Will Power, Josef Newgarden

    A look at how the championship hopes for the three drivers ended in the GoPro GP of Sonoma.

  3. Double points reverse Montoya’s IndyCar championship hopes (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 9:17 PM EDT

    Juan Pablo Montoya Juan Pablo Montoya

    Juan Pablo Montoya blamed the double-points awarded in the season finale for missing out on the IndyCar championship.

  4. Rahal’s dream season finally hits trouble in Sonoma finale (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 8:47 PM EDT

    RahalLoss AP

    Rahal endures disastrous finale at Sonoma, falls from second to fourth after 18th place finish.

  5. Scott Dixon captures Sonoma race win and 2015 IndyCar championship (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    DixonTitle1 AP

    Dixon wins race, title in Sonoma in dramatic fashion.

  6. Sebastian Saavedra leads at halfway in IndyCar season finale (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 6:15 PM EDT

    © INDYCAR © INDYCAR

    Will Power and Juan Montoya must fight from the back of the field following an accident.

  7. Robin Miller pays tribute to Justin Wilson (VIDEO)

    Aug 30, 2015, 5:01 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Robin Miller remembers Justin Wilson in this touching tribute.

  8. Webber elated with “awesome” first WEC victory

    Aug 30, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    © FIA WEC © FIA WEC

    Webber and the no. 17 Porsche crew claimed their first win at the 6 Hours of Nürburgring on Sunday.

  9. INDYCAR confirms Chevrolet wins fourth straight Manufacturer’s Championship

    Aug 30, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    ChevySTPdomination AP

    Chevrolet wins its fourth straight INDYCAR Manufacturer’s Championship.

  10. WATCH LIVE: IndyCar’s championship decided in Sonoma at 1 p.m. PT, 4 ET on NBCSN

    Aug 30, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    SonomaTitle AP

    With heavy hearts, IndyCar moves ahead and will crown its champion this afternoon in Sonoma.

  11. WATCH: Red Bull Global Rallycross midseason review at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:45 PM EDT

    GRCDaytona Getty Images

    Catch up on the Red Bull Global Rallycross season at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

  12. Maldonado: Good feeling heading into Italian GP weekend

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:30 PM EDT

    xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 21, 2015 in Spa, Belgium. Getty Images

    Maldonado keen to make up for his DNF in the Belgian Grand Prix at Monza.

  13. What to watch for: IndyCar at Sonoma (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN and Live Extra)

    Aug 30, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    SonomaW2W4 AP

    What to watch for ahead of the 16th and final round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma from Sonoma Raceway.

  14. Will Power fastest in final IndyCar practice at Sonoma

    Aug 30, 2015, 1:42 PM EDT

    PowerWarmup AP

    Pole-sitter Will Power claimed the fastest time in the 30-minute session.

  15. Porsche’s no. 17 car surges to maiden WEC victory in 6 Hours of Nürburgring

    Aug 30, 2015, 1:01 PM EDT

    NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - APRIL 10:  The Porsche Team 919 Hybrid of Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley drives during practice for the FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone at Silverstone Circuit on April 10, 2015 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Ker Robertson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley and Timo Bernhard claim their first WEC victory since joining forces at the beginning of the 2014 season.

  16. Grosjean: Lotus E23 Hybrid better suited to Monza than Spa

    Aug 30, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 23:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus celebrates on the podium after finishing third in the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 23, 2015 in Spa, Belgium.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Grosjean sets his sights on repeating his third-place finish in Belgium last weekend.

  17. Audi boss Ullrich laughs off continual F1 rumors

    Aug 30, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    LE MANS, FRANCE - JUNE 11:  Wolfgang Ullrich of Austria, Head of Audi Motorsport looks on during practice on June 11, 2014 in Le Mans, France.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images) Getty Images

    “If somebody wants to go into Formula 1 and they think that they can do it from one to the next year, I think he shouldn’t try to do it.”

  18. Trefethen Family Vineyards combines Napa tradition, PWC racing at Sonoma

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    Lorenzo Trefethen. All Photos: Tony DiZinno Lorenzo Trefethen. All Photos: Tony DiZinno

    While there’s no shortage of wineries in Napa Valley, few have racing tie-ins, and fewer still get a racing tie-in at Sonoma Raceway – here’s the story of the Trefethen Family Vineyards.

  19. MotoGP: Rossi wins British GP as Marquez crashes out

    Aug 30, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT

    Italy’s Valentino Rossi of Movistar Yamaha on his way to finish in fourth position during Moto GP qualifying at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, England, Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira) AP

    Rossi wins a wet-weather thriller to regain the lead of the MotoGP world championship.