Mark Martin's early Daytona memories

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Michael Waltrip Racing press release

CORNELIUS, N.C. — Mark Martin begins his 30th season in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing on Sunday in the 54th running of the Daytona 500. Like many of the 180,000 fans who will attend NASCAR’s premier event or the 13 million television viewers watching at home, Martin grew up a fan of “The Great American Race.”

One of his first Daytona 500 experiences came in 1976 when the 17-year-old’s family drove a motorhome from their Batesville, Ark. home to Daytona. They spent the night on the speedway’s grounds before watching the famous last-lap duel between Richard Petty and David Pearson when the pair crashed in the tri-oval grass just short of the checkered flag. Petty’s car wouldn’t restart, but Pearson dumped the clutch and kept the car from stalling. Pearson straightened out his damaged machine and slowly crossed the start/finish line to capture the Daytona 500.

I was in the grandstand tri-oval. That was freakin’ unbelievable.

Mark Martin

A young Mark Martin watched it all front the grandstands.

In 1982, Martin entered the Daytona 500 for the first time finishing 26th earning $5,000.

MARTIN ON 1976 DAYTONA 500: “I was in the grandstand tri-oval. That was freakin’ unbelievable. I was rooting for Richard Petty because everyone rooted for a winner. I was so excited. I hadn’t really been outside of Batesville, Arkansas. Now, I’m exaggerating, but I remember how excited I was to see palm trees and just being in Florida. That was a heck of race. When you come to Daytona you always get the feeling you are watching history and that day is as historic as any day in NASCAR.”

DREAMS OF RACING AT DAYTONA: “I never dreamed I’d ever come back to Daytona as a racer. I was a fan at that point. I never conceived of something like that. I never thought of even competing at Daytona until I started winning races back home.”

FIRST DAYTONA 500 IN 1982 - “I came down to Daytona with my own car, owning my own team, without a sponsor and totally ill-prepared. My car was built one-inch too low so I had to run the body an inch too high. It didn’t run worth a flip. I left Daytona broke, blew up and everything else. So I began the season broke in half. Times have changed. I’ve got Aaron’s and Toyota behind me, we’re doing commercials, I’ve got a great crew and team. I’m motivated. I’m learning new people and things. It’s good.”

WINNING A DAYTONA 500 - “I figure that I'm darn lucky to have been able to participate in this sport and stumble around and win a few things. I'm not owed anything. You earn what you get. I have not lost one ounce of sleep over not winning it other than the disappointment of being within three feet of it in '07. I had to stop short because I did recall when I was telling you that I hadn't lost any sleep over it -- to be real honest, that's not accurate. I did lose a little bit over coming within three feet of it. You don't get to choose which races you win -- if you're lucky you just get to win some. I figured that I got lucky and I got to win some. I don't get to choose which ones they are."

Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

MARTIN WILL START FIFTH IN SECOND OF THURSDAY’S 150-MILE DUELS - “I’m going to try to figure out how to use all the situations to our advantage -- what will work the best for us. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday will be all about trying to figure out for the Dayton) 500. Thursday is just about practice -- just a warm up or a heat race for the 500.”

NOTES:

· Sunday’s race will be Martin’s 831st career start and 28th Daytona 500. Martin owns 40 Sprint Cup victories - fifth best among active drivers.

· CHASSIS: Primary 687 Backup - 710 - Both are making first race appearances.

· Mark Martin will race the No. 55 in 24 races plus the All Star race in 2012. Waltrip will drive the No. 55 in the Shootout plus six races including all the remaining restrictor plate events. MWR will fill the remaining races with a driver to be named later.

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags mark martin, michael waltrip, toyota