The Cinderella Story of Mark Martin

Charles AsburyContributor IFebruary 16, 2009

Mark Martin has declared that this is really, really, and I mean really his last year racing full-time in NASCAR. I personally hate to see him go, as will many other NASCAR fans.

On and off the track, he comes across a champion in every sense of the word. You won’t find a nicer guy in the sport.

He represents NASCAR well, by hard work, discipline, dedication, fair driving tactics, and has no problem admitting when he is at fault after a crash.

He is the Brett Favre of NASCAR. Oh, and by-the-way, he doesn’t beat his wife, do steroids, shoot himself in the leg while out clubbing with friends, or cause any in-house distractions with his fellow teammates. Why? Because he’s Mark Martin.

After gunning for a NASCAR championship that has eluded him for more than 25 years, Mark now has a better chance than ever before, in his new ride with Hendrick Motorsports.

A dynasty boasting big name teammates like Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. If there ever was a time to make a serious run for that elusive championship, that time is now.

If you take the time to look at Martin’s stats, he has produced numbers worthy of championships many times over. He made his NASCAR debut in 1981, and since then, he has qualified and started 41 races on the pole.

He has 243 top five finishes, and 396 top ten finishes in 700 starts. He ranks 18th overall on the all-time win list with 35 trophies to his credit.

In the Nationwide series, he leads all drivers past and present with 48 wins. He actually did win four championships in the short track ASA series, and five in the IROCC series.

But, by using the analogy of a dove hunter, the Nascar Sprint Cup Championship, is one bird Mark Martin just can’t seem to bring down. Until now…

With one big trophy missing from his case, Martin has decided to give it one last try. He signed a one-year, full time deal with Hendrick Motorsports, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet. Rick Hendrick is in his 25th anniversary as a Cup car owner.

He established a friendship with Martin back in 2007, when Mark drove a car for him in three Nationwide Series events. In his first race, Mark placed second at Darlington. In 2008, Martin would share the stage with Hendrick in victory lane at Las Vegas.

The short stint allowed crew chief Alan Gustafson the opportunity to get to know Martin. As fate would have it, this year, Gustafson is Mark Martin’s new crew chief.

The tale of Mark Martin, it’s got the making of a story made for publishing. Take it from another old school guy, who knows the weight of being the underdog. Sometimes Cinderella stories do come true.

And waiting 25 years makes the deal even sweeter. To pull off a championship season would be pretty special for everyone, especially Mark Martin. I’ll be pulling for Mark Martin, until his very last lap. His last shot in ole No. 5!