Mark Martin is a favorite in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, both among fans and competitors. Competing full time, for the most part, since 1988, he’s raced for and against some of the legendary names in the sport. He’s raced in all three major touring series, as well as the International Race of Champions, and won in each. His successes are both numerous and diverse. Here’s a look at the top-10 accomplishments of the 53-year-old Martin:
Martin has won points races in each of NASCAR’s three premier series – and seems to have enjoyed immensely having the chance to compete at each level. At one point it looked like Martin would conclude his career in the Truck series, but thankfully for his fans, he returned to the Cup level, where he’s also still winning races.
Team owner Jack Roush was trying to make in-roads into NASCAR. Martin was trying to get his Cup career moving in the right direction. The two worked together and developed a competitive team that soon began expanding to multiple cars and eventually won a pair of Cup titles. Martin spent 20 years working with Roush before his decision to scale back to a part-time schedule put him with another team in 2007. This season, he'll share a ride with Michael Waltrip at Michael Waltrip Racing.
Martin was on fire in 1998, but eventually fell short to Jeff Gordon in the championship race. Still, he set a career pace with his seven victories while driving for team owner Jack Roush. Martin has enjoyed other multiple-win seasons, including his five-victory 2009 and 1993 runs, but has never matched that impressive number.
All in a day's work
Martin's career purse tally remains impressive. He’s worked hard and diligently to climb into the top tier of NASCAR and stay there, remaining a threat to win at the tender age of 53. He enters 2012 with 438 top-10 finishes, 266 of them top-fives, which has helped boost his career earnings to more than $84 million in the Cup ranks.
Nothing says consistency like a continual presence among the frontrunners. Martin, who stepped back and ran a partial schedule for a pair of recent seasons, has long been a factor in the race near the top of the standings. In addition to finishing second in 2009, ’02, 1998, ’94 and ’90, Martin was sixth or better in the standings from 1989 to 1999. In 2000 he finished eighth, then was in the top five the next three seasons. After his pair of partial seasons, he returned with Hendrick Motorsports and finished second in the standings in 2009.
The best from all forms of motorsports went head to head, annually, in identically prepared cars in the International Race of Champions Series. With equal equipment, Martin showcased his depth of talent. He won a series-record five titles there, beating the best in the world.
Martin has run only one full-time season in the Nationwide ranks, in 1987 when he finished eighth in the series points. He’s long been a fan of NASCAR’s second-tier series, though, and has generally been a threat to win whenever he runs there, no matter whose equipment he’s driving. Martin has continued to drive sporadically in the series and earned his most recent Nationwide victory in 2008. He is second on the series wins list with 49.
Challenging the best
Martin is widely viewed as the greatest driver to never win a Cup championship. While that might be a source of continual frustration for some, Martin has taken his runner-up roles in stride. He fought hard for the championship each season and has long been a sentimental favorite – even among his competitors – to snare that elusive title. But Martin has made it clear that his career will be complete even if he never takes home that champion’s trophy. He's been the runner-up in the series five times in his career and this year will be driving a limited schedule.
Martin is certainly no slacker behind the wheel. He’s powered his way to Victory Lane 40 times in his Cup career, beating the likes of Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Martin has always been humble when he wins, genuinely thankful to have snared another NASCAR victory and treating it as if it could be the final time he earns a trophy. He's also been a threat in qualifying, earning 51 career Cup pole positions.
That’s an accomplishment, actually, shared by few others in the Cup arena - being viewed by the competitors as a true gentleman . Martin (pictured with Rob Moroso) has never been viewed as an aggressor, though he’s always raced tenaciously and fiercely. He speaks well of others, even when they’ve done him a disservice on the track, and spends his spare time guiding rookie racers through the ropes of Cup competition. It is perhaps his true legacy in the sport that he showed how to race hard, to win and vie for championships without trashing or taking out the competition.