Mark Martin: One for the Aged

Matt CastonguayContributor ISeptember 22, 2009

LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 20: Mark Martin, driver of the #5 CARQUEST/Kellogg's Chevrolet, looks on from the grid prior to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 20, 2009 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Little more than two months ago, the sports world was a-buzz over Tom Watson, the 59 year-old golf legend who took everyone but Stewart Cink to the woodshed for 72 holes of The Open Championship.

Watson eventually finished second, but the headlines had already been made and his own legend inflated.

Last Sunday in New Hampshire, 50-year-old Mark Martin pulled into victory lane for a series high 5th time this year.

All of this makes you think, there must be something in the water, if not the Centrum Silver.

While Watson's feat is incredible and nothing short of legendary, Mark Martin's run this year impresses me on another level. I don't want to take anything away from Watson, but Mark Martin has been on another planet this year.

Martin, arguably the sports greatest driver to never win a title (or a Daytona 500), has a real shot at winning this years Chase for the Sprint Cup, NASCARs version of the playoffs.

Coming into this past Sunday's race in Loudon, NH Martin was the number one seed in the chase standings and with the win, has opened up a 35 point lead with nine races to go.

Martin's five wins this season are not only two shy of matching a career high (seven in 1998) but the most in the series this year, one more than Kyle Busch's four.

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The most impressive part of Martins run for the cup this season is that he shouldn't be here to do it. Not because he's half a century old (or young) but because he actually retired from full time driving in 2005, complete with a named farewell tour and a teary-eyed press conference.

Martin's retirement lasted only slightly longer than (either of) Brett Favre's.

Martin decided he wanted to run a limited schedule in 2006 but due to a NASCAR rule change, Roush did not have a home for him for that season. He ended up splitting time with Regan Smith at Ginn Racing in '06 and then in 2007, split time at DEI with Aric Almirola. When Casey Mears left Hendrick Motorsports to pilot the No. 07 Jack Daniels chevy for Richard Childress racing, it opened up a golden opportunity for Martin.

Martin opened the season at Daytona as the sentimental favorite in the No. 5 Kellogg's chevy. By the end of April, he'd won his first race since the 2005 season. He collected his second win at the Southern 500 in May,giving him his first multiple win season since 1999. So far he's tacked on three more.

While Watson's feat was incredible, his lasted a weekend. Martin's has lasted an entire season. I know I'm probably going to catch some slack for saying that, but go ahead, bring it. Keep in mind that Martin is doing what he's doing at an age when most of us are calling for the state to collect his license.

I've got to say, I'm pulling for Mark Martin. I think everyone else is because its a great story. For a guy who has won 40 career races and finished second or third in series points eight times, it just makes sense that he gets a title. Much like Dan Marino not getting a Super Bowl ring, it just wouldn't be right.

Guess it just goes to show, age is relative.

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