Mark Martin Is NASCAR's Happiest Driver

David DubczakContributor IApril 2, 2010

MARTINSVILLE, VA - MARCH 29:  Mark Martin, driver of the #5 CARQUEST/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, sits on the grid prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Goody's Fast Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway on March 29, 2010 in Martinsville, Virginia.  (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Geoff Burke/Getty Images

Mark Martin is NASCAR’s happiest driver. No, he isn’t always running the best; no, he hasn’t won a championship; and no, he hasn’t won half the races this year like his teammate has. But that won’t get Mark Martin down.

When was the last time anyone saw him unhappy? It’s been an awfully long time, probably in his last few years with Roush, where he admits he simply wasn’t enjoying racing anymore. But not since then.

Martin has this radiating smile, accentuated by his wrinkles developed from what must surely be a lifetime of laughter. Just look at his caricature by NASCAR comic artist Mike Smith.

But what is the effect of Mr. Martin’s perpetual happiness? It’s the way it motivates his GoDaddy team. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Martin unhappy, but it’s been longer since I’ve heard him bash a team. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard that.

Week in and week out, he talks about what a pleasure it is driving for Crew Chief Alan Gustafson and how much fun it is to drive for Hendrick Motorsports.

If he wins… his talk is about how great it is working with Alan and the guys.

If he crashes… it’s still a pleasure to drive for Alan and the guys.

Laps down… can’t believe what a great crew chief Alan Gustafson is to work with.

Just barely loses… Hendrick Motorsports is such a great team and it’s so fun to drive fast cars prepared by Alan Gustafson and the GoDaddy crew.

He never talks down about his crew, never complains about how much they sucked today, and never blames his crew for a crash that is obviously his fault.

That kind if negative talk is something I’ve heard from the very best in our sport… both Busch brothers, Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, and all three of his Hendrick teammates: Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and yes, even Jimmie Johnson on occasion.

Mark is always the first one to tell his crew “great job.” As an athletic coach myself, I know what a big deal this is…and how hard it is to be sincere.

If I’m faking it, I know it and my athletes know it. I try not to fake it, but when I do, it’s obvious.

It’s also obvious that Mark Martin is never faking it.

It’s like a marriage vow he’s taken to heart, “through the best of times, through the worst of times, through sickness, and in health.”

And it shows with his crew. His crew is among the most upbeat in the garage and Alan Gustafson is one of the happiest crew chiefs on the pit box.

Martin still has the energy of a 20-year-old, and the humble spirit from Batesville, Ark., is able to lift the spirits of his entire team (it certainly wasn’t that way when Kyle Busch drove for that team).

When the Kyle Petty Charity Ride rode through Batesville, Petty remarked he didn’t go through Batesville, Ark.,… he went through Mark Martin, Ark. The people there love him, too.

Mark Martin doesn’t even have to try. He’s just that way. I’m sure, whatever positive remarks he has for the team, his team has the same toward him.

-David Dubczak
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