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Pedley: Martin Just Says No To Classlessness

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 24 2010

Mark Martin insists on doing it his way, the fair and square way, on NASCAR race tracks. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Indianapolis – This wasn’t the way the 2010 season was supposed to go for Mark Martin and his fans. This was supposed to be the season their personal demons were sent scurrying into the night.

Instead, it is Martin, NASCAR’s symbol for what we all wish stock car racing were like, who is scurrying.

Scurrying to win a race, scurrying to make the Chase, scurrying to fend off public attacks calling for him to step down after the season so that Kasey Kahne can get into his Hendrick Motor Sports ride.

The seemingly apologetic half smile was in its accustomed place on Martin’s face when he faced the media this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. His words were carefully chosen as always.

But there also seemed to be an under current of frustration and weariness in that always expressive, ashen 51-year-old face.

The man who has finished second in the Sprint Cup standings five times in his almost 30 year career in the series is 14th in points. He’s 37 points out of the Chase. And even if he were to make the Chase, he has zero bonus points because that is the number of victories he has in 2010.

He sounded less than optimistic after qualifying third on Saturday for Sunday’s Brickyard 400.

“No, it’s not too late,” he said of getting to the Chase and keeping hopes for a first championship alive, “but it’s very close. You know, its close. So, you know, we still have work to do. It looks really good this weekend, but I don’t think that you can judge the rest of the, you know, the rest of the schedule based on one good two days’ worth of really good, you know.

“And we have a lot of work in front of us. We’re working really hard, harder than we ever have. So that’s what we can do. We can control that and that’s what we’re doing. You know, we’re really focused and dug in.”

What Martin won’t do is resort to dangerous, desperate moves in his pursuit of a win or a Chase berth. Especially not this weekend at the 2.5-mile IMS track.

It’s not that it’s too early to go banzai, or the wrong place. It’s that it is just not in the genetic makeup.

“You know,” Martin said, “we’ll run our typical, normal race. I mean, I don’t think that we will throw all or nothing, Hail Mary, which we don’t normally much anyway. So I think we’ll run our typical calculated race, I would assume that’s what Alan’s strategy would be.

“And we, you know, we would love to be in contention to win, but we also are just going to also be pleased to be, you know, running better than we have, making progress – you have to take making progress as an encouragement, and hopefully if you can continue that, you know, you can get where you want to be. So I’m certainly feeling good about the progress that we’re making right now.”

Despite his circumstance – or perhaps of his good qualifying effort – Martin kept that just-happy-to-be-racing attitude.

It’s an attitude that has only served, in recent years, to endear him to fans and other drivers.

His name comes up any time another driver rams somebody else into a wall or catch fence or hospital.

Mark Martin’s picture dominates text books about playing fair in auto racing. Not that he’s ever read any of those books.

“You know,” Martin said when somebody suggested to him that he would never do what Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski did at Gateway last Saturday, “I get some more credit than maybe I deserve. I’m not sure what would have happened under that same scenario had I been in Carl’s shoes. I can’t say for sure. I hope that the initial incident wouldn’t have happened, which was Brad getting in, you know, into me if I had been in Carl’s shoes. That’s what I would hope for. And then we could just have a battle side to side, you know, side by side.

“I really don’t want to get into that one, you know. I have no — I don’t have any dog in that fight at all. I do appreciate the respect that I’m given and I also acknowledge that I probably get more than I deserve.”

Or not.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, July 24 2010
2 Comments

2 Comments »

  • ed g says:

    Jim P. said, “It’s not that it’s too early to go banzai, or the wrong place. It’s that it is just not in the genetic makeup.”

    I am afraid, Jim, that is just another way of saying that Mark Martin lacks the killer instinct of a Cup champion. Thirty years of “close but no cigar” will turn into 31 years soon and will be the same for as many years as he has a Cup ride. Wanting and apparently psychologically needing to be seen as a nice guy overrides his obvious ability and talent. All of the other drivers stroke that attitude for him by constantly saying how much they respect him. This is one more head game they play, because when push comes to shove, they know Martin will neither push nor shove.

  • Richard in N.C. says:

    When I saw the title I expected to read about Mark’s complaints about the classlessness of the media, since many in the media are essentially saying Mark is not being honest.