Hall of Famer Mark Martin offers up important advice for young Cup drivers
Despite NASCAR being an ever-evolving sport, there are some good words of wisdom from past legends on how to achieve success that will always apply.
With Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart gone from full-time NASCAR competition and Carl Edwards’ surprise departure, the sport is currently in the midst of a huge youth movement.
Young drivers like Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon are all likely to have a bright and successful Monster Energy Cup Series future ahead of them, but I won’t come without a few obstacles along the way.
Following his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017 Friday night, Mark Martin gave some sound advice to each of those talented drivers who are poised to lead the sport one day.
“My first answer to that might be dated, but know your race car,” Martin told FOXSports.com after the induction ceremony. “When I came up, it made the difference. Today, drivers are made and broken by their crew chiefs and by the computer simulations."
Starting with his first Premier Series season in 1981 and throughout his career, Martin made sure he had a complete understanding of every detail of his race car at all times.
“I would learn how to do the chassis simulation setups myself,” Martin said. “I could tell the springs and the complete setup that was under my car when I got my first win in 1989.”
Since that first win at Rockingham Speedway, Martin earned a total of 40 Cup wins before ending his legendary career in 2013.
“That’s how a driver holds his own destiny,” he added. They don’t rely on the crew chief or the people for their destiny. Drivers like Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki and myself; we controlled our destiny because we knew how to set those cars up to go fast.
From a setup and technology standpoint, Martin understands times are different. But, the concept and overlying principle of the point he wanted to make to young drivers remains the same.
“If I was 20 years old, I would have the computer simulation on my computer, and every night when I went home from the race track, I’d be running simulations,” Martin said. “But, that’s me.”
In September 2016, Stewart discussed why he wanted to retire from NASCAR following the 2016 season. One reason really stood out, and it also relates to Martin’s advice.
"We’re in an era now in the sport where technology’s taken over so much," said Stewart. "I remember when we started in ‘99, you could set there and be terrible on Friday, terrible on Saturday, and Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, Stewart’s former crew chief) could sit there with his Ouija board … and come out Sunday and put something together and even win races.
"I can’t do different things with my feet, different things with my hands and run a different line and fix the problem. I used to be able to do that. I can’t do that anymore.”
Martin agreed, which led him to discuss new ways young drivers can get a step ahead of the competition.
“You can’t,” said Martin. “I’m thinking the only way you might be able to have some control over it is to learn the car, learn the simulation. I’m just telling you what I would do if I were 20 (years old) right now. I’d be learning that simulation, I would be knowing my car, I’d be knowing what setups are in it and I would be telling the crew chief I think we need to change this and that.
“That’s what Rusty, Alan and I did. And, Bill Elliott, too,” he added. “We knew that. The guys I raced with in that era knew what was in their race cars.”
Martin also hit the nail on the head for how young drivers should conduct themselves off the race track, as well.
“The most important thing is to be humble," Martin said. "Arrogance is a very big turnoff. No matter how good you do, you never know when the rug gets pulled out from under you.”
According to Martin, that experience is inevitable for every driver at some point during his or her career.
“I don’t know hardly anyone that hadn’t gone through it,” he added. “I’m sure that going forward, no matter how good you are, you’re going to have to deal with those times."
“Stay humble.” An incredible piece of wisdom from a Hall of Fame driver.