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For NASCAR's Mark Martin: How Long Before Father Time Catches Up to Him?

MARTINSVILLE, VA - OCTOBER 23:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on October 23, 2009 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jason Smith/Getty Images
Sal Sigala Jr.Senior Analyst IOctober 30, 2009

For 27 years, he has given unselfishly of himself to the sport, while enduring some of the most heartfelt moments during that time span.

Year after year, he buckles himself in and goes along for the ride that seems almost endless, hoping that one of these seasons will be his turn to shine.

Father time has already given up pursuing him, especially when he thought he had him in his grasp when he announced he was retiring after the 2005 season.

And that was not to happen. Instead he would continue a career that was still lacking that one elusive piece of hardware that is the dividing factor between just your average driver, and getting your name etched next to some of the greats.

Not all drivers will win a championship and some may never get close, but to finish second four times has to eventually take its toll while leaving the driver scratching his head wondering where he went wrong?

NASCAR racing is not a sport that always rewards those drivers who display what true sportsmanship is, but at times it will go against the grain because of the aggressiveness that the sport produces.

At the age of 50, Mark Martin has already expressed the feeling of trying to keep up with the younger generation driver when he said that, “When I am in the car I feel like I’m 25 again, but once I get out and the adrenaline wears off, that’s when my body lets me know my true age.”

Martin, who knows the disappointing feeling of finishing second since he has been there four times in his 27 year career, is once again finding himself in that precarious position once again with only four races left.

Martin is hoping that his two wins, 10 top fives, and 22 top-10 finishes along with his two poles at this Alabama superspeedway, will be enough to give him a much needed boost as he continues on his quest for his first cup championship.

Crew chief Alan Gustafson has chosen Chassis No. 5-481 for Talladega this Sunday, even though it has yet to be run this season, but the No. 5 team did use it to earn a seventh-place finish in April 2008 at Talladega.

Gustafson added that, "It's not over. I mean, there are four races left. Anything can happen. Each race pays the same points.“

Gustafson also went on to say, “We can't beat them at one track and win the championship. We have to beat them the next four weeks. That's the key, and it's going to be tough."

Martin, who has completed 14,607 combined laps at Talladega and Daytona and has led 557 of those, is approaching Sunday’s race with a positive outlook and keeping a close eye out for his teammate Jimmie Johnson.

"Well, we need to beat the (No.) 48, but their performance is just incredible. I think we still have something for them, and I think this (No.) 5 team can run with those guys and beat those guys.”

"It's not over, and Talladega is the race that everyone has known could change things. But, the finishes we've had over the past three or four weeks obviously aren't going to cut it."

We're putting everything into this race team and each race that we can,” said Martin.

There are a few tangibles that are playing into Martin‘s favor, and that is the hunger that he has to win his first championship along with carrying 27 years of disappointment on his shoulders.

Martins many years of experience along with his keen sense and knowledge of the sport, easily make him one the most dangerous contenders that the No. 48 has to look out for.

And just how dangerous are all of these when you put them together? Just ask his boss Rick Hendrick.

"He might be 50, but he's got the body and mental attitude of a 35-year-old, there's guys in their 30s not in the shape he's in and not as dedicated and committed to the sport as he is.”

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