Mark Martin 'Back' for His 16th Daytona 500

Three months after spinal fusion surgery, Mark Martin is back in the No. 6 Valvoline Ford Taurus -- featuring a new paint design -- for his 16th Daytona 500. His best finish was third in 1995 and, with a third-place result in the 1999 Winston...

Three months after spinal fusion surgery, Mark Martin is back in the No. 6 Valvoline Ford Taurus -- featuring a new paint design -- for his 16th Daytona 500. His best finish was third in 1995 and, with a third-place result in the 1999 Winston Cup point standings, Martin extended his personal streak to 11 consecutive seasons in the top six. "I get hammered over and over about not winning the championship and not winning the Daytona 500," noted Mark, who had the fifth-best qualifying speed last Saturday. "As the media, you have to ask that question, but you have to remember it's not a bad thing that you've contended for a championship all those times. It's a good thing. It makes me feel good I've been a contender so many times. It makes me feel like I'm not a total loser. A total loser would never have contended." As for his health, Martin said he has been able to gradually resume his beloved weight-lifting and conditioning program. "I feel wonderful. The (lower back) pain is completely gone. Now, I'm back with my regular trainer and we're strength-training again, five-days-a-week on the weights. I could have driven during the test (at Daytona in January) but I was still getting tired and my stamina was down at that time. It's built back-up now." Special Report: Big Brothers Fundraising Expanded

Mark Martin and Valvoline will expand their association with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America this season. Starting with Sunday's Daytona 500, Valvoline will again donate $5,000 for each race win, $2,500 per pole position, and $20 for every lap Martin leads in Winston Cup competition in the Valvoline Ford Taurus. New in Y2K is a $1,000 contribution for a top-five finish and a special fundraising activity will be announced soon. At least 11 trackside fundraisers are scheduled -- opening at Daytona -- where fans can participate in this "Caring Hands" program. A total of $247,315 was raised by Martin's performance in 1999 plus off-season events.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin