Mark Martin, currently behind the wheel of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, has had one of the most storied careers in NASCAR, including 40 wins, 266 top-fives, 437 top-tens, and 50 poles to date.
[media-credit id=62 align=”alignright” width=”241″][/media-credit]And yet, the driver whose career has spanned almost thirty years racing a stock car at the Cup level, remains ever humble, as well as considering himself very blessed.
Martin, as one would expect, humbly credits one person, team owner Jack Roush, as being the most influential person throughout his racing career.
“I spent nineteen years with him,” Martin said of his mentor and team owner Roush. “He was someone that was wiser and more experienced in many ways than I was.”
“He was more experienced in life,” Martin continued. “So, that one is easy to answer.”
In fact, Martin’s most memorable car, one that he hopes may one day accompany him to the Hall of Fame, is that No. 6 car that he drove for his mentor Jack Roush.
“The No. 6 car is most representative of my career,” Martin said. “That and my time with Jack Roush.”
“That’s the core and foundation of my career.”
In addition to Jack Roush, Martin credits having chemistry with his various teams over the years as another key to his success. And according to Martin, it all starts with the relationship between driver and crew chief.
“I believe in team chemistry,” Martin said emphatically. “It’s sort of intangible. But it does help spawn better results.”
“It’s the whole team but it really starts with the crew chief,” Martin said. “It’s like a number of other things in life, like a relationship or a marriage or anything else.”
“There are good ones and there are bad ones and there’s all in between,” Martin continued. “You have to work hard on it but the very best ones require no effort.”
As effortless as it might seem, Martin said that team chemistry cannot be forced, an experience that he has had several times throughout his career.
“It’s not something that you can force to happen,” Martin said. “It just does.”
“It happens or it doesn’t or it falls somewhere in between,” Martin continued. “I’ve had a lot of that.”
“I’ve been very fortunate to have been in very few poor situations, “Martin said. “I’ve been in a lot of great situations and I’ve been really, really blessed.”
Although Martin has been credited as a mentor to many throughout his racing tenure, he humbly declines to discuss even one of those that he has helped in their career development.
“I haven’t had the kind of influence on young people that people give me credit for,” Martin said humbly. “I certainly don’t take credit for that.”
While Martin has seen competitors come and go throughout his years on the track, he acknowledged only one change in competition as the most significant in the sport.
“The number of competitive cars and the discrepancy between the slow and the fast cars is the most competitive change I have seen,” Martin said. “This has changed the face of NASCAR racing forever.”
Is the veteran driver bothered by all the talk of late of fuel mileage and its place in the competition of the sport? For Martin, the fuel mileage discussion is all about ‘been there, done that.’
“It’s not new by any means,” Martin said. “I feel like I’ve lost probably forty races to fuel mileage in my career. So, certainly, it’s not new.”
“We might have went through a spell where we had less of it then we used to and now we’re having more than we used to,” Martin continued. “Some of that is just coincidence.”
“I don’t think it’s bad for the sport because you don’t know who is going to win until the leader comes off Turn Four,” Martin said. “Isn’t that the whole appeal of racing?”
“I wouldn’t want to see it ever leave because I think it brings drama to our sport.”
Martin himself is no stranger to the drama that stock car racing often entails. While he has experienced his share of the low points, he also has had many memorable moments.
“Winning Phoenix in the No. 5 car was my most memorable moment,” Martin said. “It was pretty incredible.”
Martin, 50 years old at the time, started the 2009 Phoenix Subway Fresh Fit 500 from the pole and never looked back. With that win, Martin became the fourth driver to win a Cup race after turning 50, joining the ranks of Bobby Allison, Morgan Shepherd and Harry Gant.
That victory snapped a 97-race winless streak that went all the way back to 2005. After the win, Martin paid tribute to one of his dear friends Alan Kulwicki by doing the ‘Polish Victory Lap’.
“I don’t have words to describe it because I never thought I’d win again,” Martin said humbly. “And I think most of the competitors thought so too. They all seemed to receive it really well.”
“It was a big win,” Martin continued. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get to experience that feeling again.”
One of the feelings that Martin experiences over and over again is the adoration of his large fan base. And without a doubt, his most memorable moments with his fan posse are the interactions he has with them during his annual fan appreciation event in Batesville, Arkansas.
“I’ve been incredibly blessed with support and a lot of fans with a lot of love,” Martin said.
“My favorite part of my fan event is the Q&A,” Martin continued. “That’s the part when you get the one and one and the personalities come out. The people get to ask what they really want to know.”
“And they get answers from somebody in a peaceful setting so there is no pressure, time pressures or limitations.”
That peaceful setting is another one of the goals that Martin has been continually seeking, both on and off the track. He also has been practicing the art of trying more diligently to balance his career with his home and family life.
“I’ve got some experience at it,” Martin said of his work/life balancing act. “Through the middle stages of my NASCAR career, I didn’t manage it as well as I needed to.”
“I worked really, really hard and gave everything that I had and the problem I had was that I brought home my frustrations, disappointments and pressures,” Martin continued. “That affected the vibe around me.”
“And I hated that,” Martin said. “I thought it was just because I was extremely intense.”
“But I’m still extremely intense and I do a better job of isolating my personal life.”
Of all of the many experiences throughout his career, the ever humble Martin struggles to single out one that he would like to do over.
“I don’t do those things,” Martin said. “I’m not into it. It’s not me.”
“There are too many great experiences in life to say one tops it all.”