Homestead: Mark Martin preview

AFTER 19 YEARS, MARTIN SET FOR FINAL RIDE IN NO. 6 Martin will exit the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion after Sunday's race at Homestead CONCORD, N.C. -- Can you recall where you were and what you were doing on Feb. 14, 1988? Mark Martin can. He was...

AFTER 19 YEARS, MARTIN SET FOR FINAL RIDE IN NO. 6
Martin will exit the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion after Sunday's race at Homestead

CONCORD, N.C. -- Can you recall where you were and what you were doing on Feb. 14, 1988? Mark Martin can. He was behind the wheel of the Roush Racing No. 6 Ford, forging forward on what would become one of the most successful runs in not only NASCAR, but all of sports history. Martin has spent the majority of his days since behind the wheel of the No. 6; 19 years worth to be exact. That will all come to an end this weekend, when Martin takes his final ride in the Roush Racing No. 6 Ford.

"It's actually hard to believe that it's actually here," said Martin in reference to Sunday's race at Homestead. "It's one of those things where you know it has been coming for a while, but you still can't believe that it's almost here. I've been in that car for a long time -- 19 years to be exact. It's a part of me and I'm a part of it. Now the time has come for me to hand that over to someone else, but it's going to be a different feeling for sure."

To put Martin's 19-year run in the same car in perspective, seven other current drivers, who are on the preliminary entry list for this weekend's race at Homestead, also started that Daytona 500 in 1988. Of those seven drivers, all have raced for at least four different owners since that time. In fact, the seven combined have driven for 55 different owners and driven cars with a total of 57 different numbers. All while Martin forged on in the No. 6.

On that day Ronald Ragan was president, a gallon of gas cost 96 cents, the average price of a car was just over $14,000, a loaf of bread would run you a whopping 61 cents, and a young driver from Batesville, Arkansas was determined to make the most of a second chance. Martin's tenure in the No. 6 was of humbling if not almost comical beginnings.

"We made the race on time," said Martin recalling that first speed weeks with Roush Racing. "Then we got wrecked in the Twin-125's and we didn't have a backup speedway car, so we used the Atlanta car for the race. We didn't last 20 laps before we lost the engine."

When Martin climbed into that backup No. 6 car on that day, it was highly unlikely he could have envisioned the success he would go on to have in the No. 6. Six-Hundred and sixteen consecutive starts, 35 wins, 230 top-five finishes, 361 top-10 finishes, 39 poles, 181,163 laps, 11,100 laps led and 228,456.2 miles later, Martin prepares to get behind of the wheel of the No. 6 for the final time this Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Martin's time in the No. 6 car has seen four different Presidents of the United States, two different series' sponsors, three different Ford makes and numerous changes to the business of NASCAR and Roush Racing. The No. 6 team was the first step of team owner Jack Roush into NASCAR. Since that time Roush has added four more Cup teams, with two of those teams claiming championships, and Roush has grown into one of the largest and most successful motorsports operations in the world.

"We've been at this for a long time and there is a sense of accomplishment for what we've been able to do," said Martin. "It's been a great ride and I'm so thankful to Jack Roush for having given me the opportunity to really live out my dreams behind the wheel of the No. 6 car. It's really been a great ride and I would not change it for anything. We've always went into it giving everything that we had and really going at it no less than 100 percent and hopefully that showed over the years."

-credit: roush racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jack Roush , Mark Martin