Martin's frustration turns into blessing By Marty Smith WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Jan. 15, 1999) For Mark Martin, the most frustrating aspect of his racing career has turned out to be a vivid blessing in disguise. Martin, who has long ...
Martin's frustration turns into blessing By Marty Smith
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (Jan. 15, 1999) For Mark Martin, the most frustrating aspect of his racing career has turned out to be a vivid blessing in disguise.
Martin, who has long suffered from an ailing back, underwent surgery two months ago to correct the problem. Following the operation, he chose to concentrate solely on making a full recovery, thus confining him to bed for the majority of the past two months - something the tireless driver is highly unaccustomed to.
However, during the seemingly endless and oft motionless days of recovery, Martin realized just how much he loved NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing and everything that goes along with it.
"It made me realize how much I love to race, how much I love being at the racetrack and interacting with the fans and teams and everything," said Martin, who made his first post-surgery public appearance at Saturday's NASCAR Winston Cup Preview. "I realized how lucky I am to drive that car. You'll see me with a smile on my face a lot more this year that you have in the past."
Martin was all smiles Saturday, obviously anxious to get the NASCAR 2000 season under way. After seven weeks of bedridden misery, the No. 6 Valvoline Ford has never felt so comfortable.
"The first five and a half weeks were pretty rough," he said of the recovery period. "I tried to follow the doctor's orders as much as possible. I had a one-day lapse in judgement. Other than that, I laid down for 22 hours a day.
"I feel like a brand new person now. I'm pain free for the first time in a long time and I'm really excited. I had no idea how much pain I was really going through. I had no idea that it was ruining the quality of my life."
It certainly didn't diminish his consistency level on the racetrack. Despite the pain, which Martin says wasn't much of a factor inside the racecar; he posted 19 top-5s and 26 top-10s, and won at both Rockingham and Dover in 1999. Although his win total was down significantly from a phenomenal 1998 campaign in which he won seven races and finished second to Jeff Gordon in the championship hunt, he was as consistent as ever.
"I admire Mark for being able to go through that the way he did," said Ken Schrader, driver of the No. 36 M&M's Pontiac. "In '92, I had a neck problem and it bothered the heck outta me. For him to perform the way he has and be in that type of pain, it's impressive."