Mark Martin has surprised many fans, drivers, crew chiefs and NASCAR officials with four wins (so far) and a chance at making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
But what has made the No. 5 Kelloggs/Car Quest Chevrolet so good this year?
After Chicagoland last year, Casey Mears was the driver of the No. 5 car who had no wins and was 24th in points. Mark Martin was running part-time in the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated No. 8 U.S. Army car. Martin was 28th in points with 14 starts.
Now things have obviously changed.
Casey lost his ride with Hendrick and went to Richard Childress Racing to drive the No. 07.
Martin left DEI’s No. 8 ride (which closed down a few races into the 2009 season) and at the age of 50 did something that not many people thought he could still do, win races.
Not just one race, but as of Chicagoland Martin now has the most wins of any driver in the Sprint Cup Series.
Many fans, like me, are still questioning where this success has come from. The first and most obvious choice is going to be the team, Hendrick Motorsports.
In recent years, Rick Hendrick has been home to the back-to-back-to-back champion: Jimmie Johnson.
Since 1992, Hendrick Motorsports has had one of the most recognized names in motorsports: Jeff Gordon.
In 2008, Hendrick Motorsports added another superstar to their lineup: Dale Earnhardt Jr.
However, Earnhardt Jr. shows that the team of Hendrick alone might not be the one to provide Martin with this success. Because going into the 2008 season, Earnhardt Jr. had not won since Richmond in 2006.
Don’t worry Junior fans, yes Hendrick did help end that streak as Earnhardt Jr. would go on to win at Michigan in June of 2008.
However, sorry Junior fans, Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88 have not been able to capture a win this season that Hendrick Motorsports is known for.
So maybe it's not Hendrick Motorsports, but possibly the individual team of the No. 5 car.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson, has been with Hendrick Motorsports through four different drivers, and has proven he is one of the best crew chiefs in the sport.
Gustafson helped then rookie, Kyle Busch win a few races and become the 2005 rookie of the year.
Two years later, the No. 5 car became the first winner with the Car of Tomorrow at the spring race at Bristol. At the Lifelock 400 at Michigan, Gustafson played the right strategy and ended up in victory lane.
Now in 2008, Gustafson may not be the reason why the No. 5 car keeps appearing in victory lane. While Casey Mears was driving with pretty much the same crew, Mears and Gustafson were winless and struggling in the points.
Gustafson is a great crew chief, but may not be the reason why the No. 5 car has the most Sprint Cup wins of any other car so far.
So it must be Mark Martin, the ageless driver who is the force why the No. 5 car continues to win.
Martin is a great driver; he had an impressive career at Roush-Fenway racing which basically put Jack Roush on the racing map.
Martin still does have that zero in the championships column, however he has finished second a couple times.
After leaving Roush-Fenway racing in 2006, Martin raced for Ginn racing and almost won the biggest race of the Sprint Cup Series schedule—the season opening Daytona 500 in 2007.
Martin finished second, by a matter of inches and milliseconds to Kevin Harvick.
Even last year while racing part-time for the No. 8 DEI car, Martin had a few good finishes and helped keep the car in the top 35 in owner points.
But Martin has not had the best finishes in some of the races, most not caused by him, Martin has had four did not finishes (DNF's) this year.
A major reason that Martin is only 11th in points despite his four wins.
The reality is that it is a combination of all three, Hendrick, Gustafson and Martin that has made the No. 5 car greeeeeeeat this season, just like the famous slogan of the hood living Tony the Tiger of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes.