Martin raised the stakes in his 'Chase'

Despite being one of the top 10 teams in the standings and regularly competing for wins, the 45-year-old Martin announced earlier this week that the 2005 season will be his last on the NEXTEL Cup circuit. "I've been out here chasing this thing...

Despite being one of the top 10 teams in the standings and regularly competing for wins, the 45-year-old Martin announced earlier this week that the 2005 season will be his last on the NEXTEL Cup circuit.

"I've been out here chasing this thing for a long time," explained Martin, who has 34 Cup series wins, including Dover in June. "I'm very proud of what we've been able to do over the years. There are a lot of guys out there who never got to win their first race in NASCAR and I've been fortunate to accomplish a lot of things."

Martin has finished second in the standings four times, but has never won the series championship. He hasn't won the Daytona 500 either. He may only have one shot left, but Martin insists that he wouldn't feel like his career is incomplete without one of the big trophies on his mantle.

"I never worry about the things that I haven't done, instead I focus on all the things that I've been able to do and that makes me very proud," said Martin, who has been in the top 10 of the championship standings in 14 of the past 16 seasons. "For me it's just time to do something different."

Martin is currently fifth in the Chase for the Championship heading into the UAW-GM Quality 500 at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Saturday (7:00 p.m. ET on NBC). He has four wins at the 1.5 mile circuit and leads all of the drivers that are contending for the championship with 15 top-5's finishes.

"I think that just about everybody knows it is one of - and just maybe - my favorite track to race," admits Martin, who qualified 12th. "It's a real driver's kind of track, where handling is key and you better find a way to go fast in the corners. Hopefully we'll be able get a grip on it and make a solid run at the win."

Martin's impact on the sport highlights the history of Roush Racing. Martin and Roush won five races in the first four years as a one-car operation and they have combined for 73 wins in the Cup, Busch and Truck series over the past 17 years. The #6 has been the backbone that Roush used to construct his five-car stable.

"Mark put Roush Racing on the map," said team owner Jack Roush, who hired Martin in 1988. "Through it all, he has been true to himself and the passion for perfection in himself and to the relentless competition with others. My enduring relationship with Mark has been the proudest accomplishment of my business life. Perhaps more importantly, he has been the second brother I never had, my best friend, and the cornerstone of the effort I have devoted my competitive ambitions to."

Martin has also had a dramatic impact on his teammates. He helped develop the careers of Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch, who are also in the Chase for the Championship and has been a positive influence on teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards.

"Mark always took the opportunity to give me helpful hints with setups and how to drive certain tracks, and he gave me great advice on some of the dos and don'ts of the business," says Biffle, who won the Busch Series championship for Roush Racing in 2002. "Even to this day, I'll go to him when I need some help and what's cool is that he does the same with me. It means a lot to me as a driver to know that Mark respects my opinion."

"There hasn't been a bigger influence on my career in the Cup Series than Mark Martin," said Kenseth, who claimed Roush Racing's first Cup Series championship last year. "He's the one that talked to Jack Roush about me and kind of took me under his wing and made sure I had a home here at Roush Racing. I owe my success to Mark and have always tried to conduct myself like Mark Martin both on and off the racetrack."

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Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Kurt Busch , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , Mark Martin