Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Denny Hamlin Comes to Terms with 2019 Season Regardless of Outcome

AVONDALE, Arizona — Denny Hamlin began the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season in the best way possible – with an emotional win in the Daytona 500 after the passing of friend and teammate J.D. Gibbs. Fast forward 34 races, now the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Camry has found victory lane five times and could be the favorite to win the Championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But now the 15-year series veteran finds himself in an all too familiar position. After what could be deemed one of Hamlin’s most dominant performances since competing at the Cup level, he sits fifth in the Playoff standings, facing a 20-point deficit he must overcome to advance his way to Miami.

“No matter what I will not consider this year any sort of failure,” Hamlin told POPULAR SPEED. “We had a great year, we won races, we competed, we led more laps than we have in a long time, we have more top-fives than anybody in the series – it’s been a really good year.”

In conjunction to the 38-year old driver leading NASCAR’s premier series in top-five finishes, he also leads his fellow competitors with an impressive 9.7 average finishing position on the season – the only driver to average a finish above 10th.

While Hamlin knows he is not in a must-win scenario this weekend at ISM Raceway, he acknowledges the fact that with the Playoff format, he must have a solid points day and ultimately capitalize on – at the bare minimum – a top-five finish.

“We all play by the rules, we know what the format is, but it doesn’t always work out for you,” said the Virginia-native. “It’s extremely difficult to win one of these [championships] and we’re content either way.”

In a shocking turn of events, a very humble and poised Hamlin accepted the fact that he could very well never win a championship during his Cup Series tenure, but he has found solace in this possibility. He recounts a exchange with NASCAR legend, Mark Martin, who similarly had a very storied career in the sport but never hoisted a championship trophy.

Martin – who totaled 40 wins in his illustrious Cup Series career – told Hamlin that looking back, winning a championship wouldn’t make any difference in his life right now. He still managed to have a very storied and respect career.

“I’m at that point right now,” the driver of the No. 11 admitted. “I don’t feel like I have anything to prove. I know what I’m capable of, my competitors know what I’m capable of. I really appreciate all the love the media has been giving me over the last three weeks – it’s been incredible – but I think we have to give some love to the other competitors as well.”

Hamlin adamantly relayed that every driver in the Playoffs  should receive equal attention and exposure. He believes anyone in the post-season has a shot at advancing to the series finale at Homestead and should be treated with the utmost respect.

As the 38-year old nears the conclusion of his 15th season, it’s evident that series veteran has matured and Hamlin says this has been a major benefactor to his on-track success.

“I’ve definitely grown, no doubt about it,” said the Toyota Racing driver. “I’ve have major life changes this year, so I’ve had to grow and change and that’s really helped on-track things as well. If it ends up that our year is over after this weekend, then I can’t wait to get back to the racetrack in 2020. It was so much fun racing this year and having a shot to win every single weekend – it was a pleasure.”

Hamlin drove his way to victory lane at the track formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway in the Spring of 2012. In 28 races at the 1.5-mile speedway, he has 12 top-fives and 16 top-10’s with an average finish of 11.3. The 312 Lap event in the desert will not be an easy one for the driver of the No. 11, but with the new PJ1 traction compound being applied to the racing surface, it’s essentially anyone’s race to win.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management to other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered and endorsement.

 

 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

EXCLUSIVE: Mark Martin Knows How Big Darlington Is

This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to historic Darlington Raceway for the annual Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback Labor Day weekend, one of the most exciting and important races on the schedule.

Drivers prize a victory at Darlington, because it is one of the toughest and most demanding tracks on the circuit in terms of driving skill.

NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Mark Martin, a two-time Southern 500 winner, knows all about that.

“Darlington ranks up there in a lot of ways,” Martin told PopularSpeed.com in an exclusive interview. “It had so much history before I got there as being a difficult and challenging race track.”

Despite the track’s treacherous nature — there’s a reason it’s nicknamed “The Lady In Black” — Martin did well at Darlington, winning there in 1993 with Roush Fenway Racing and again in 2009 with Hendrick Motorsports.

“I had a lot of success there through the years,” said Martin. “I remember running second to (Dale) Earnhardt in both races in 1989, when I hadn’t won a race yet, so I was pulling my hair out. And then to get a couple of Southern 500s is major in my career.”

This weekend, Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will honor Martin with a Carolina Ford Dealers throwback paint scheme that dates back to Martin’s his days in the Busch Series in 1989.

“I really have an extra soft spot in my heart with the throwback weekend,” Martin told POPULAR SPEED. “Because it is so much fun to be a part of — to go have a reunion with all the heroes of our sport that made it what it is today.”

Categories
Feature

Bowyer Takes Throwback Paint Scheme Personally

And the hits just keep coming. Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Uptown Charlotte, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin unveiled the throwback paint scheme Bowyer will carry Labor Day weekend during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. 

Bowyer’s No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford will carry the deep blue colors of the Carolina Ford Dealers in a tribute to Martin’s 1989 ride in what was then known as the NASCAR Busch Series.

“For me, it was really easy,” said Bowyer, who is 11th in Cup points in his first season with SHR. “When you think about throwback paint schemes and how to honor a legend of the sport, it was so easy to look back at 2012, when Mark Martin came over to be my teammate at (Michael Waltrip Racing).

“It meant so much to me,” said Bowyer. “I learned so much from him (Martin). To have this opportunity to honor him at the Darlington throwback weekend they’ve created is so much fun.”

And the sponsors is a good fit, too.

“This Carolina Ford Dealers paint scheme is an easy one for me,” Bowyer said. “As soon as I saw it, I’m like, ‘That’s the scheme.’”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

For Dale Jr., Or Any Driver, Retirement Should Be Definite

After winning the pole last weekend at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. left the door open for running the Clash and perhaps even the Daytona 500 next year.

He shouldn’t.

We have seen this story before with big name drivers retiring from full-time racing. Mark Martin is perhaps the best and most wellknown example of the urge many competitors feel once they declare retirement. Martin came back to race for years after such an announcement, in a combination of full-time and parttime seasons for various teams in the garage.

Jeff Gordon is the most recent example. After an entire career racing the No. 24 car, the driver returned to sub for Earnhardt last season, competing in a handful of events in the No. 88 while its usual talent recovered from concussion-like symptoms.

For Gordon especially, the situation was not fun.

Certainly, these superstar drivers earn the right to return when they want. After all, they have devoted their lives to this, and it is understandable if they want to compete at NASCAR’s highest level once again. Unfortunately, doing this seems to end their careers with a fade rather than a bang.

Gordon’s last few weeks in the No. 24 were incredible. The win at Martinsville and heading into the championship round at Homestead gave the sport and Gordon’s fans an energy boost. Even though he didn’t win the title, those races were big moments that provided meaning and closure to the driver’s career.

He should have quit while he was ahead, but he didn’t. Racing the following year in a different car took away those memories. Sure, nothing can discount the fact that Gordon competed for a championship in 2015, but the event was promoted as his final race – and that was a lie.

Drivers may not want retirement tours, but it doesn’t matter what they want. Such tours benefit the fans, the people who deserve closure after following a career of ups and downs.

When fans of Earnhardt buy tickets to Daytona, Talladega or Homestead this year, they should be sure those are his final races at that venue. Otherwise, the moments created throughout the season will be diluted with a feeling of uncertainty and closure will not feel as ripe.

Earnhardt has said he would race the Daytona 500 again under the right circumstances. Perhaps, in his case, such an event would be a significant place to end his career and provide such closure.

However, such a return is a risk. Earnhardt would have to be driving a very competitive car with an appropriate number – the No. 8 is the only one that could provide as much closure as the No. 88. More importantly, he has to shut the door completely after that. Anything less would result in disappointment.

It also doesn’t help that last weekend at Daytona was promoted as his final race at the speedway by NBC, the track and the sport in general. Either way, Earnhardt needs to solidify his plans soon and be transparent with his fans and the sport in general. His last race shouldn’t be a surprise, and it should clearly be his final ride.

Gordon did not come back under the right circumstances, and while every driver is different, Earnhardt should refrain from making similar decisions, so fans are not tricked into following a retirement tour that has no meaning.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Las Vegas Motor Speedway to Add Second Cup Series Race in 2018

Rumors have been swirling in the days leading up to this weekend’s Kobalt 400 that Las Vegas Motor Speedway could host a second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend for the 2018 season.

On Wednesday, rumors became a reality as LVMS announced with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority that the track will indeed host a second MENCS race as part of a triple-header weekend in the fall next season that will include the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series.

LVMS will become the first track in NASCAR history to host two triple-header weekends with all three national touring series in action on those weekends.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Speedway Motorsports and Las Vegas Motor Speedway to create a NASCAR spectacle worthy of the greatest racing in the world and the Entertainment Capital of the World,” said Speedway Motorsports, Inc. President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith.

“It’s taken a tremendous amount of work to make this happen, and we are very thankful to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and NASCAR for their support in our endeavor to create a triple-header NASCAR weekend in such a world-class destination.”

LVMS President Chris Powell said a second MENCS race weekend at the track has been a long time in the making and is thankful for the opportunity.

“We’re honored that NASCAR has entrusted us with a second NASCAR weekend,” Powell said. “We’ve pursued a second NASCAR premier series race weekend for quite some time, so this news is monumental for everyone at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as well as everyone in our wonderful city.”

The second Cup Series weekend comes by way of the September Truck Series/Cup Series doubleheader at New Hampshire in September and the standalone XFINITY Series race held at Kentucky Speedway in September.

“Las Vegas and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have become great destinations for NASCAR fans,” NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell said. “The experience is unique to any other in our sport. We look forward to having NASCAR racing there for two race weekends in 2018.”

LVMS has hosted 59 races across NASCAR’s top three series with the first Cup Series race being held at the track in 1998 which was won by Mark Martin. Since then 11 different drivers have etched their name on an MENCS winner’s trophy at Las Vegas with the most recent being Brad Keselowski last season.

“Over the years, Las Vegas has become a major sports city as a popular destination for a variety of championship and professional sports events, and today we are proud to add a second NASCAR Cup race to that roster. Las Vegas, NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway have developed a strong and successful partnership, and we are certain this second race will prove to be another great success,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, President, and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Last year’s race weekend at LVMS generated an incredible $140 million dollars in economic revenue for the city with almost 100,00 fans coming from out of town.

“Las Vegas is the ideal destination for a second NASCAR Cup race, and this addition will delight the thousands of fans who love visiting Southern Nevada to watch their favorite drivers in action,” said Lawrence Weekly, chairman of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board and Clark County commissioner. “As a city, we are uniquely positioned to provide sports fans with a top-notch experience, and our energy and passion are the perfect complements to NASCAR.”

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
IndyCar Open Wheel

A Career in Motorsports Journalism and PR

For more than 40 years, Michael Knight has been in the motorsports field as a journalist and public relations representative. He’s worked with a variety of people in the auto racing industry and has developed friendships with some racing legends along the way.

In the 1960s, he grew up rooting for his racing hero, Jimmy Clark, a two-time winner of the Formula One World Championship. He remembers watching Clark win the Indianapolis 500 with Team Lotus.

“At the time, what you did was go to major movie theaters, which showed the Indy 500 on a closed circuit TV,” Knight said. “So there I saw Jimmy Clark win the 1965 Indy 500.”

Later in the 1960s, Knight’s interest for motorsport grew from F1 and IndyCar and extended into other forms of racing.

“By this time, I was following Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR, and sports car,” he recalled.

In 1974, he became a writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He grew up in the city and got his degree in journalism at Temple University, so it was only fitting he would be a reporter there.

He covered motorsports for the newspaper and wrote many stories about a local racing champion from Nazareth, Pa. named Mario Andretti.

“One of the first names I became aware of was Mario’s,” he said. “Nazareth is an hour and a half to the northeast of Philadelphia. When I started at the Daily News, the coverage from a motorsport standpoint treated Mario as a local story.”

Over the years, he got to know Andretti as a friend and said he wrote many news pieces about him throughout his career.

“I spent a lot of time with Mario and wrote a lot of stories about him,” Knight said. “I was covering when he won the World Championship of Formula One in 1978 and wrote a lot of stories in that year, especially.”

When the CART Series formed after the split from USAC in late 1978, CART co-founder Roger Penske helped Knight get a prominent role in the newly-formed series.

Knight was hired to be the first ever director of communications for CART in 1980 and relocated to Bloomfield Hills, Mich. to accept the position.

In 1983, Andretti signed with Newman/Haas Racing and Knight became involved with the Anheuser-Busch brewing company, which sponsored Andretti’s car.

“At that time, Budweiser was a major sponsor in a variety of racing series and had primary sponsorship for Paul Newman and Carl Haas,” Knight said. “I was looking out for almost all the Budweiser racing involvements, and my primary responsibility became that program with Newman/Haas.

“It wasn’t just because of my background with IndyCar racing and CART but it was because it was Paul Newman and Mario.”

1985-paul-newman

(Knight and Newman at the 1985 Indianapolis 500)

Knight worked with the team through the 1980s into the 1990s. In the late ‘90s after Andretti’s retirement from racing, Knight took interest in the marketing boom that was occurring in NASCAR.

He felt it was the right time to leave American open-wheel racing and venture into stock car racing. Sponsorship was deemphasized in CART and thriving in NASCAR.

“I had the opportunity in 1999 to become the national motorsports media consultant of Valvoline so I was working on the NASCAR program with Roush Racing and Mark Martin as the driver,” Knight said. “That was a big deal … It was obvious to me the situation in IndyCar was on a decline.

“It was just a good time to get involved in another series on an active basis.”

Today, Knight lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. and does motorsports coverage for the state’s largest news publication, The Arizona Republic. In 2016, he wrote about all events happening at Phoenix International Raceway, including the two NASCAR race weekends, the return of the Verizon IndyCar Series after an 11-year hiatus, and the $178 million renovation plan for the track.

He is also the chairman for the Jim Chapman Award of Excellence in Motorsports Media Relations. The award honors a public relations person in motorsports annually and is considered the highest honor in racing PR.

Chapman was a journalist for The New York Times before serving in the U.S. Air Force during World War II. He then became the PR director for Ford Motor Co. in 1946 and became a prominent PR figure in IndyCar racing starting in 1967. He created the award in 1991, five years before his death.

“Jim was a very dear friend of mine,” Knight said. “Some people have mistakenly characterized Jim as a second father to me or my mentor, but the best way to say it is that we were very close friends and I learned so much about the business of public relations not just from a motorsports standpoint but PR from an industry-wide basis.”

Originally, the award was given to people who worked specifically in CART, but it’s now eligible for anyone in racing PR. Knight won the first award in 1991.

He also unveiled a permanent Jim Chapman award in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center. A 30-pound, bronze-casted plaque is on display in the building.

“If you’re going to have something with Jim Chapman’s name on it, you couldn’t put a piece of junk up on the wall,” he said of the plaque. “Jim would’ve come down from heaven and smack me on the head for doing that.”

Knight hopes that it will be seen by all media people in the years to come, and one day hopes that other displays will be made so he can be honored at other tracks nationwide.

He believes excellence in public relations and journalism in racing is crucial to the sport, and it has served him well throughout his distinguished career.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

WAID’S WORLD: Martin Never Won A Title … But In 1990, What Could Have Been

Mark Martin has been elected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame. Heck, reckon that is only fitting since he’s already been named to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Both inductions will occur in January.

Martin is one of the best drivers in NASCAR history. He won 40 races over the course of 31 years and held the record for most XFINITY Series races, 49, until Kyle Busch came along.

Although he finished second in the final season point standings four times Martin never won a title. This has prompted several to proclaim him “The Greatest NASCAR Driver To Have Never Won A Championship.”

I’m not sure how Martin feels about that label. He may be an easy-going guy but I wouldn’t say it to his face.

But it is a fact that Martin never won a title. However, barring a most unusual incident that resulted in an arbitrary post-race penalty, Martin would have won the championship in 1990 – which was only his third full season with team owner Jack Roush.

In 1988 Roush resurrected Martin’s NASCAR career, which seemed to have come to an end after a failed attempt to field his own team in 1982.

The Martin-Roush union clicked almost immediately. Martin was a well-known and well-skilled driver who won often on the short tracks of the Midwest.

Roush, from Michigan, was a renowned automobile engineer and innovator with a solid racing background.

In 1990, when it came to contenders, Martin’s name was mentioned often. So was Dale Earnhardt’s.

Earnhardt had already won three championships but never the Daytona 500. In 1990 he seemed to have the race in his hands. He led 155 of 200 laps in a dominating performance.

But fate crushed his hopes with a mile left in the race. Earnhardt ran over what was later described a broken bell housing in the second turn and he drifted high on the track.

That allowed unheralded Derrike Cope to take the lead and go on to win in what has become one of the most stunning finishes in NASCAR lore.

The next race was on the short track at Richmond. Martin ran down Earnhardt and Rusty Wallace over the last 10 miles to win his first race of the season and the second of his career.

An elated Martin celebrated in victory lane, chatted with the media and then drove home to North Carolina.

However … four hours after the race NASCAR Winston Cup Director Dick Beaty announced that the Roush team was guilty of a competitive crime.

The team’s carburetor was mounted on the engine’s intake manifold with an aluminum block spacer half an inch thicker that the two inches allowed.

Of course, the media had no idea how this was all illegal. Engine specialists from other teams explained that a taller spacer would improve airflow and could increase horsepower.

Beaty said the infraction came with a record $40,000 fine and the loss of 46 points.

The point loss would prove to be disastrous.

NASCAR explained that the loss of points was based upon the number of points Martin would have earned had he finished last on the lead lap.

Ten cars finished on the lead lap, hence Martin, who would have finished 10th, received 46 fewer points.

There were a lot of folks – competitors and media alike – who were scratching their heads over the explanation and the unusual turn of events.

“We got the death penalty for running a stop sign,” said Martin during a second post-race interview conducted by phone from his home. “What we had done didn’t give us an advantage over anyone. It wasn’t like we had a big engine or illegal tires.”

The point loss dropped Martin from sixth to 12th in points.

But he remained in contention for the rest of of the season. At Phoenix, the 28th and second-to-last race of the year, Earnhardt was the winner. It meant he had a six-point lead over Martin headed to the season’s last event at Atlanta.

In an unusual piece of strategy, Martin was placed in Robert Yates Ford for the Atlanta race. “We had to do something,” he explained.

But it was to no avail. Earnhardt finished third and Martin sixth. Consequently, Earnhardt won his fourth career title by 26 points – 4,430 to 4,404.

Think of it – for Martin it all would have been so much different without the circumstances at Richmond.

He became the second driver to lose a title due to a penalty. Lee Petty lost the 1950 championship when he was stripped of ALL points earned during the season.

“There were 29 races this season, not one,” Martin said. “We put that Richmond deal behind us a long time ago.”

But I would wager that Hall of Famer Mark Martin has never forgotten it.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Martin Enjoying Life with Nothing in His Windshield

Mark Martin wasn’t wearing a firesuit when he made his first track appearance since November of 2013 this past weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

But his logoed shirts were just as eye-catching.

At 57, Martin wasn’t representing a sponsor, and he had no team obligations to fulfill. But his attire said it all as a NASCAR Hall of Fame logo sat proudly displayed on the upper left of his chest. As of last Wednesday, Martin is no longer just a former driver; he’s one of the newest members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

As a result, he was back in the middle of the activity he spent the better part of 30 years being a large part of. Named the pace car driver for the 57th annual Coca-Cola 600, Martin addressed the media on Saturday before participating in numerous events Sunday evening.

Through it all the smile many remember the long-time Ford driver with was etched on his face. Only now the case could be made that Martin is positively glowing because of his Hall of Fame inclusion, and no matter how many times he was shuffled from one thing to another at Charlotte, it was like he was treating it and everyone like the first time.

Or at least with a much different perspective because being back in the spotlight is not where Mark Martin thought he’d be this soon after walking away from it.

Moving On

Martin had made peace with it all.

With the championship finishes (five times he finished the runner-up; four others he was third). His lack of a Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 win. It was done and in the past and driving racecars was finally in his past, too.

After years of expressing his desire to retire, or at least scale back, Martin was never able to officially walk away until he finished his substitution role and climbed out of the Tony Stewart’s No. 14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway a little over two years ago.

Since then, Martin has been adamant to everyone who has asked – either in person or on social media – that he is no longer a racecar driver. If given the opportunity to be one again, he wouldn’t take it. His career is done and over with, and Martin is content with that being the case.

“What I loved about racing cars was being one of the best, being good at it, and at a certain period in your career when you get older, and you are less effective at what you’re doing, there comes a cutoff when I’m not satisfied anymore with what I’m able to put forth,” Martin told POPULAR SPEED.

“In other words, I’m not good enough for my own standards. Therefore, I don’t want to drive. I wouldn’t drive a racecar for anything; I wouldn’t drive a racecar for fun; I wouldn’t drive a racecar to take it out in practice. I didn’t drive racecars because I liked to go around in circles. I don’t like them because I liked to go fast – I like to go fast because that’s what it took to beat people. To me, when I look in the rearview mirror – and I’ve never been one to look back, ever – but when I look up in that mirror I can barely, vaguely see racecars. They are almost completely gone. Now what I see out my windshield is very exciting.”

In 2013, Martin knew that he had reached the end, he’d had enough. The limited schedule he was able to run in 2007 and 2008 with Dale Earnhardt Inc. was the best thing he had ever done and resulted in profound happiness, which made Martin extremely reluctant to sign with Rick Hendrick for a full season (2009).

But he did, with the promise he could then run 2010 with the schedule he wanted.

“Well, we won a race right away, and the only reason I even broke the promise to myself that I wouldn’t run the full schedule again was because I really wanted to win one more time,” Martin said. “So, we won right away, and it was so incredible and while we were all on the high we started signing contracts going further. The second year was OK and the third year that I did with Rick was way too much again.

“Then I had the opportunity to drive for Michael (Waltrip) and it was so much fun again. Working with Rodney Childers and working with Michael, and everybody, it was one of the most fun years I ever had in racing. Our commitment was a two-year commitment, so by the time we started the second year I knew that I was ready. I was ready.”

There have been offers, however. Martin was even presented with the chance to drive what he called a “really good car” in the XFINITY Series this year that would have given him a chance to win.

But as he continues to say, he doesn’t want to drive a racecar anymore.

“I don’t meet my standards,” he repeats. “That’s something in my past.”

Hailing from Batesville, Arkansas, Martin won 40 races at NASCAR’s premier level in addition to compiling 49 wins in XFINITY and seven in the Camping World Truck Series. Martin also has claim to five IROC championships.

He’s worked with car owners like Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick, both of whom were also selected to the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He’s been paired with crew chiefs from Harry Hyde and Larry McReynolds to Jimmy Fennig and Rodney Childers. And he’s competed against some of the best drivers in the sport.

Yes, Martin got everything out of being a racecar driver he could have ever imagined.

“One hundred times over. A little kid from a small town in Arkansas, he might have dreamed as such but if he was really realistic, he better not,” Martin said. “So, definitely. It was just an amazing ride and the opportunity to work, to meet, and compete with some of the greatest people in all of motorsports.

“It was a very rich time in my life, and I really feel like I’m fortunate.”

Forward, Not Back

Having put racing behind him, Martin never sat and reflected about where his place in the sport was. He’s far too busy for that now. During his career, Martin thought in retirement he’d want to do nothing more than sit on the couch. Instead, he discovered he doesn’t sit still well.

So his days, which are spent mostly back in Arkansas, are full from morning until night when he catches up with his wife, Arlene. But it did take some time to find a groove, especially with those weighing in on how he should do this or try that. Each time, Martin realized it wasn’t for him. He did find his passion, though, and it still involves mechanics.

“I have found that I like tinkering on things, working mechanically on my motorhome some; I enjoy getting the tools out,” he said. “I’ve sort of reconnected with the person that I was when I left Arkansas to chase my dream, which was a guy who had to fix stuff, had to figure out how to make something work that you had, rather than go get something else. Improvise and all those kind of things.

“I’m happy doing those kind of things, and I’ve done a lot of family stuff, and I enjoy that, too.”

Martin considers his glass filled all the way to the top. Garnering 57 percent of the votes from the Hall of Fame committee, he will now forever be remembered as one of the top drivers in NASCAR. Not bad for a guy who just wanted to be remembered.

So as he sits in the Winner’s Lounge at Charlotte Motor Speedway, being fed nicely and taking in how much his life has changed not only in just the past week, Mark Martin’s face can’t help but continue to light up.

“This is amazing to be in something with my heroes. I adore so many of the Hall of Fame members, not just the 2017 class, but some of my all-time racing heroes are in this Hall, and I can’t believe that I’m really included,” he said.

“When you asked the question, ‘did it meet up with what I thought it might be,’ it’s like, really? NASCAR Hall of Fame? Really? Racing’s really good to me.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement. 

Categories
XFINITY

Roush Fenway Youth Benefitting from Mark Martin Return

By Matt Weaver (Bristol, Tenn.) — Earlier this month, @MarkMartin and Roush Fenway Racing announced that the long-time partners have reunited and that the Sprint Cup veteran would serve as a driver coach and team consultant moving forward. But as it turns out, Martin had already joined the team several months prior and had already been working with RFR’s Nationwide Series drivers — @Chris_Buescher, Trevor Bayne and Ryan Reed.

Each week following a NASCAR event, Martin visits the Roush Fenway shop in Concord, N.C. and attends the weekly debriefs with team officials, drivers and crew members. His job is to analyze race footage and opine on what the team did right and where there is room for improvement.

Buescher is the most recent winner in the Nationwide Series, having won last week on the road course at Mid-Ohio. On Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, Buescher called Martin a “huge asset for the team because of his talent and experience” from 30 years in the sport.

“It’s going to help us move forward, especially rookies like me and Ryan,” Buescher said. “We’re going to a lot of these tracks for the first time this season and while I have two prior races here, Mark helps us both on the track and off.

“He attends our team debriefs and tells us what he saw we could have done better. I’m really looking forward to having a long term relationship with Mark and having him help us as we continue to improve.”

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Bayne is the 2011 Daytona 500 winner and is far from a rookie but he still feels like Martin has helped him improve this season, leading up to his full-time debut in the Sprint Cup Series next year. Bayne was quick to point out that everyone at RFR attends the meetings and provides their input but that Martin’s tenure is what separates him from the rest of the organization.

“Everyone at the team is involved in these meetings but he’s certainly provided his approach and perspective on all the things that we do,” Bayne said. “From my perspective, he’s been a huge asset especially as I get ready to run in the Sprint Cup Series full-time.

“I definitely plan on leaning on him quite a bit and I really look forward to having him at the shop.”