BRISTOL, Tenn. - Mark Martin has enjoyed 25 successful years in racing. The date: April 12, 1974. The place: Independence County Speedway, a quarter-mile dirt oval in Locust Grove, Ark. The car: A six-cylinder 1955 Chevrolet. The...
BRISTOL, Tenn. - Mark Martin has enjoyed 25 successful years in racing. The date: April 12, 1974. The place: Independence County Speedway, a quarter-mile dirt oval in Locust Grove, Ark. The car: A six-cylinder 1955 Chevrolet. The color: Hugger orange. The number: 2. The results: Third in the heat race, sixth in the feature. The prize money: $56. The driver: Mark Martin.
When he drives the Valvoline Ford Taurus in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR Winston Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Martin will be marking the 25th anniversary of his first race. It's a career that -- so far -- has included 30 NASCAR Winston Cup and a record 36 NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division victories and four True Value International Race of Champions and American Speed Association titles.
"I'm just a little hillbilly from Arkansas who wanted to race and never dreamed that I could do what I'm doing today," Martin says with a smile. "I was young and looking for something to do. I could drive pretty good at a young age."
"After driving some, and playing other sports, I decided I was probably going to be a lot better off chasing a race car dream than playing in the NBA," said the 5' 6", 150-pound Martin, laughing heartily.
"I just went with it. I'm real fortunate. I've done way more than I ever thought I would."
Driving champion Mario Andretti once said that, in his youth, he dreamed of great success but never truly allowed himself to believe it would happen. Was it the same for Martin?
"I heard so much from the people around me when I was a teenager that I was going to win the Daytona 500 by the time I was 25 and all this stuff that I don't know if I believed it or not, but I heard it so much, that it became a part of my life," he recalls. "I never really counted on it. Along the way, I lost more races than I won. I mean, I LOST 'em, had 'em won, and had 'em go away.
"I'm not just talking about getting beat, I'm talking about in the bag, went away. That hurt. They all hurt -- really, really, really bad. The way I learned to protect myself was to never expect anything, ever -- and I still don't today.
"I don't expect anything but the worst. What I do expect is the very best from the people around me and my very best. When I can't do that anymore, I'm going to quit.
"That's more important to me than the results. The effort is more important than the result and I learned that through 25 years of experience."
Martin is a three-time winner of Bristol's late-summer night race -- including last year's when he was in the throes of agony over the death of his father, Julian, in a private airplane crash -- but will be trying for his first triumph in the spring, when his best result was second in 1988 and 1990.
BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF AMERICA UPDATE: Martin led 63 laps in the PRIMESTAR 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 6 Ford, good for an additional $1,260 for Big Brothers Big Sisters. That, combined with contributions from Valvoline and NASCAR fans, has brought the current total raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters to $61,140. Valvoline is donating $5,000 for every NASCAR Winston Cup race Martin wins this season, $2,500 for each Bud Pole and $20 for every lap he leads in this "Caring Hands" program. The third of 15 planned trackside fund-raisers, where fans can put their handprints on a canvas wall, receive a commemorative button and make donations, will be Saturday at Bristol.
Source: NASCAR Online