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.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:51 AM EST
Formula E partners with FPL for Miami ePrix; Matty Brabham does the demo runs.
Mar 3, 2015, 10:06 AM EST
Tequila Patron ESM, Rolling Stone come together for one-off outing at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Mar 3, 2015, 9:53 AM EST
Susie Wolff confirmed for Spain, Silverstone FP1 outings and another day in Austria.
Mar 3, 2015, 7:54 AM EST
Alonso ruled out of season opener, following medical advice.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:31 PM EST
Mercedes F1: Road to Repeat premieres this Thursday, March 5, at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.
Mar 2, 2015, 5:16 PM EST
Jam-packed schedule for inaugural GP of NOLA weekend.
Mar 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
Toyota Racing’s trio of Davidson, Buemi and Nakajima tour Tokyo.
Mar 2, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
RHR’s image on Indianapolis 500 tickets to be unveiled on Thursday.
Mar 2, 2015, 1:00 PM EST
With 114 cars total and a manufacturer overload, things look promising for Pirelli World Challenge heading into 2015.
Mar 2, 2015, 11:00 AM EST
F1 and IndyCar kick off; NHRA, sports cars and ladder series also have a busy month of March ahead.
Mar 2, 2015, 9:30 AM EST
Mercedes leads in pace, and lap count as F1 preseason testing is in the books for 2015.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:59 AM EST
Mick Schumacher to advance from karting into cars this season.
Mar 2, 2015, 8:21 AM EST
With potential Indy Lights success there for the taking, Max Chilton instead opts for the LMP1 route with Nissan.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:45 AM EST
Max Chilton and Alex Buncombe round out the Nissan LMP1 lineup; Chilton full season and Buncombe at Le Mans.
Mar 2, 2015, 7:34 AM EST
Red Bull takes off the camo, comes back in color.
Mar 1, 2015, 5:00 PM EST
Here’s the final recap from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya as pre-season testing comes to a close.
Mar 1, 2015, 3:30 PM EST
Team principal Maurizio Arrivabene calls for “concentration and discipline” at Maranello in the lead-up to the start of the 2015 season.
Mar 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EST
The Team Penske pilot turns 34 years old today.
Mar 1, 2015, 2:30 PM EST
Maldonado is still able to find the positives out of his final test run before the beginning of the 2015 season in Australia on March 15.
Mar 1, 2015, 2:00 PM EST
Should Mercedes drop the ball in 2015, Williams could be the team to pick up the pieces and snatch a race win.
- Fernando Alonso ruled out of Australian Grand Prix 0
- Mercedes F1: Race to Repeat: Teaser clips and preview (VIDEO) 0
- F1, IndyCar seasons finally premiere in 2015’s version of March madness 0
- F1: Barcelona second test wrap, and 2015 test times cumulative roundup 0
- Michael Schumacher’s son Mick to race in ADAC F4 championship this season 3
- Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday 1
- F1 pre-season testing ends with Bottas fastest for Williams 1