Mark Martin Continues to Show NASCAR That Age is Only a Number

Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst ISeptember 6, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, NY - AUGUST 07:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 CARQUEST/Cheez-It Chevrolet, sits on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at Watkins Glen International on August 7, 2009 in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

We have all at one time or another, seen the t-shirts that read in big bold letters either across the front or back, “Old Men Rule.”

They are very popular among the older crowd, and while thinking about the phrase how much time have you actually spent pondering what the phrase actually meant?

Or did you ever stop to think what the definition of an old man is, since the t-shirt doesn’t give any specific age group?

Now whatever you do don’t tell Alan Gustafson, Mark Martins crew chief that he is old.

Because more then likely, this is what he will tell you when you try to put Mark in a category that most people don’t even want to hear about.

“Age is irrelevant with Mark. You hear his age come up and people ask me a lot. If I’ve been asked one, I’ve been asked a thousand questions about Mark and his age, and I can tell you, I don’t even think about it.”

Gustafson also added, “It doesn’t even come into the equation when I talk with him, work with him or when I’m around him. It’s irrelevant with Mark.”

It had been 97 races since the last time Mark visited victory lane; going all the way back to Kansas of 2005.

To Mark it probably felt like an eternity especially since that win came while driving for Roush racing.

And since that win he is now in his first year, on his third team change and a third chance at the ever elusive cup championship that he has been chasing since 1981.

“It’s really cool; actually, technically, it’s probably my third chance. I got a second chance when I got with Jack Roush. Most people don’t get a second chance.”

“Maybe not for Alan, I don’t know, but for me, I’ve carried a lot of weight, you know, on my shoulders. I really, really, really wanted to do this. I really, really, really wanted to win.” Martin added.

Martin became the third oldest driver in NASCAR history to make it to victory lane on April 18, during an era where it looks more and more like the younger generation driver is taking over the sport.

Along with their quick reflexes, win at all cost attitude, and the youth that they bring into the sport, it’s easy to see how a driver of Martin’s age could easily be over looked.

Especially nowadays, since the new crop of young drivers are starting out at a much younger age, and a lot of that has to do with the parents who are giving their children the opportunity to begin racing almost when they are able to take their first steps.

If you ever get a chance to go to a short track around where you live, you will see more and more of the younger generation behind the wheel of the same vehicles that our legends grew up driving.

Racing is not just for the dads anymore. It’s becoming more for the kids who have better reflexes, along with the parents who are realizing that with track time it gives them a better chance to get a head start at possibly being the next NASCAR superstar.

It’s not hard to notice, especially when we see drivers like Joey Logano who is only 18 years old, and of course who could forget Kyle Busch who tried racing in the Craftsmen Truck series back in 2001 at the tender age of 16.

Then all of a sudden in walks a 50 year old driver who was already given a rocking chair, and was already set to retire when his adrenaline filled body told him that the rocking chair could wait another day as he displayed his own style of youth.

“I feel fine right now, I tell you. I don’t have any problem keeping up with a 25-year-old, at least not for the next 15 minutes, because I have got the biggest shot of adrenaline that you’ve ever seen."

When you begin to take a trip down memory lane, you have to wonder what happened to the days when being old never had the label of, “Does he still have what it takes to win?”

But instead they were still a threat week in and week out, while showing the younger drivers the tricks of the trade.

Mark has now been able to add his name to a list of great drivers who were able to make it to victory lane, while being asked the age old question, “How old is too old?”

1) Harry Gant, 8/6/1992, Michigan, 52 years, 7 months, 6 days (Gant won eight races after turning 50, and his last pole was at 54 years old, Bristol 1994)

2) Morgan Shepherd, 3/20/1993, Atlanta, 51 years, 4 months, 27 days

3) Mark Martin, 4/18/2009, Phoenix, 50 years, 3 months, 9 days

4) Bobby Allison, 2/14/1988, Daytona, 50 years, 2 months, 11 days

5) Dale Earnhardt, 10/15/2000, Talladega, 49 years, 5 months, 16 days

6) Dale Jarrett, 10/2/2005, Talladega, 48 years, 10 months, 6 days

7) Bill Elliott, 11/9/2003, Rockingham, 48 years, 1 month, 1 day

8) Rusty Wallace, 4/18/2004, Martinsville, 47 years, 8 months, 4 days

9) Geoffrey Bodine, 8/11/1996, Watkins Glen, 47 years, 3 months, 24 days

10) Richard Petty, 7/4/1984, Daytona, 47 years, 2 days

11) Terry Labonte, 8/31/2003, Darlington, 46 years, 9 months, 15 days

Martin has finished second four times while trying to win his first championship, and now he is only two races away from making it into the chase and another chance at history.

“It will be very disappointing if we don’t make the Chase. There’s a lot of competition out there."

"You just can’t out run those cats every day.” Mark Anthony Martin was born January 9, 1959.

He is in his 27th season as a full time cup driver, in one of the most prestigious racing series in the world today.

What he has accomplished so far is an incredible amount of respect, success, and an impressive list of accomplishments which also includes being named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.

While looking back to a racing career that has spanned over three decades, Martin has raced against some of the biggest and best drivers that this sport has ever seen, and yet he still continues to be a threat even at the young age of 50.

Where and how do you put a price tag on what Martin means to NASCAR?

That should be an easy question to answer, just by looking at all the respect that he has accumulated throughout his illustrious career.

If Martin can win the championship this season, he will break a 26 year old record that is held by Bobby Allison, who was 45-years old when he won his only championship back in 1983.

Martin’s first obstacle will come on Sunday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway, along with at least five or six other drivers who are also wanting to race for the Sprint Cup championship.

“We try to do everything we can to control the things we can to get the very best result every race. If we have a good run and a good finish I am sure we’ll have a fast race car and if we finish how we run we shouldn’t have any problems.”


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