Martin sentimental favorite heading into finale

Martin sentimental favorite heading into finale

Earlier this season Mark Martin announced that 2005 will be his final year in NEXTEL Cup racing. After 23 years in NASCAR's premium league where he racked up 33 wins, Martin is the sentimental favorite to win the title. Press...

Earlier this season Mark Martin announced that 2005 will be his final year in NEXTEL Cup racing. After 23 years in NASCAR's premium league where he racked up 33 wins, Martin is the sentimental favorite to win the title.

Press conference: Mark Martin.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
Martin has had several brushes with the top but has never been able to pull off winning the series championship. With the top five drivers in the chase separated by 82 points heading into the season finale, Martin remains a contender.

Currently, Martin sits fifth in standings trailing teammate and leader Kurt Busch by 82 markers. But, winning the championship isn't at the forefront of Martin's mind.

"There's no pressure on us at all," said Martin. "We came here to win. We dame down last week and did testing and really ran good. Our team has done a fabulous job. It's an honor and a privilege to be in included in this group.

"We've had our disappointments through the chase and everybody is faced with the possibility of that and we may be too. But, no matter what, it's been an awesome year."

Martin and Roush Racing know that time is winding down for the No. 6 Ford and the possibilities of being able to let Martin retire a Cup series champion.

"This is my next-to-last shot," Martin said. "I think everybody in the sport knows how hard I'm willing to work for this and how hard I have worked for this.

Mark Martin.
Photo by Kurt Dahlstrom.
"At the same time, I am not desperate. I've won a lot of championships, just not one of these Cups. I have had a great career. I'm not done yet. I'm not done with 2004 until this thing is over with and I will be fierce in 2005."

Martin is no stranger to success. He won rookie of the year honors in ASA in 1977 and went on to win three consecutive series championships. Martin came up with his own backing to support a five race Cup effort in 1981, before attempting the full schedule the following year.

In 1983, unable to continue to afford financing his own Cup ride, Martin auctioned off his race team and ran with a variety of organizations before returning to the ASA in 1985. He won another series title with ASA in 1986.

Martin reappeared in NASCAR running the Busch series in 1987 where he was noticed by new team owner Jack Roush who grabbed Martin for his stable. The relationship has been a fruitful one. In addition to his 33 career wins, Martin has finished second in series points four times (2002, 1998, 1994, and 1990).

"2003 was a miserable year for me," Martin said. "I was very, very concerned that was the note I was going to end my Cup career on. I have a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm coming from the Viagra team. Pat Tryson (Crew chief) and all the Viagra guys -- a commitment that these guys are gonna stay with me for 2005 and I really believe there's a chance that we can do an even better job in 2005.

"So, I have a lot to be excited about."

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Series NASCAR-CUP