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Woody: Martin Dignified, Determined In Defeat

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 23 2010

Win or lose, Mark Martin is, well, Mark Martin. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

They say you can tell more about a man’s character in defeat than in victory.

I’m not sure that applies to Mark Martin.

Mark is so even-keeled that he’s dignified win or lose. Through good times and bad, amid highs and lows, his personal compass invariably remains stuck on “classy.”

This year, for the umpteenth frustrating time in his career, NASCAR’s oldest full-time racer didn’t win the championship. Unlike last season, he wasn’t even in contention.

Last year Martin finished second to teammate and eventual four-time champ Jimmie Johnson. This season he didn’t make the 12-man cut for the Chase.

But that disappointment never slowed Martin down. It didn’t keep him from racing his heart out week after week in NASCAR’s playoffs.

Lesser men might have folded their tent and furled their flag after last year’s disappointing defeat – Mark’s fifth runner-up of his championship-less career. Not Martin. He came back this season full of vim and vinegar. At 51 he continues to drive like a teen-ager late for a date on prom night.

And he’s not done yet.

After putting the wraps on another season Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway he returned home to Daytona Beach to start preparing for next year. Martin has one season remaining on his contact with powerful Hendrick Motorsports and he’s determined to make the most of it.

Anybody who thought he might step aside next year and vacate his ride for young Kasey Kahne was woefully mistaken. Evidently they don’t know Mark Martin. “Surrender” is not in his vocabulary.

Despite last year’s spirited charge there are some who believe Martin is over the hill. They don’t think he can cut the mustard against kids half his age. This season’s winless setback, they believe, means it’s time to quietly ride off into the sunset.

They’ve been thinking that for the last several years, and every time Martin has proved them wrong. Last year he finished runner-up to a driver who set a record for consecutive championships.

This year Martin finished 11th, the highest among non-Chasers. A lot of drivers behind him would love to swap places.

So what does the future hold for the driver who will be 52 when he rolls off at Daytona in February? Nobody knows. Nobody, that is, except possibly Mark Martin. And if he knows, he’s not saying.

All Martin will confirm is that he’s looking forward to next season. Might there be another one after that? And another …?

Who knows? Mark has proven that with a good car and a good team he can still compete. So why quit while he’s competitive and doing something he loves?

Some say that Martin is like an old fire horse that can’t keep from answering the bell.  
When it rings, his ears perk up and he’s off and running. Put him out to pasture? No way. When ready to go he’ll let us know. Until then don’t count him out. Methinks Mark Martin has a lot of racing left in him.

– Larry Woody can be reached at lwoody@racintoday.com

Larry Woody | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, November 23 2010
4 Comments

4 Comments »

  • Terry says:

    To make it clear below….. I was refering to Dale Sr.’s titles
    and not a current driver…….

  • Rob says:

    This year for Mark was plagued with controversy surrounding the Kasy Kahne situation. It not only took away from Mark it took away from the team as well. “Mark” my words, next year will be different. The team performed pretty darn good this last stretch. He might not duplicate the 2009 performance, but next year he will win a race and make the chase. Mark Martin you are a champion in my heart. Keep up the good work, NASCAR needs you!!

  • Terry says:

    The Dan Marino affect…
    How can you be good if you never won a championship….?
    Well there has been a driver who has been give passes on unproffessional tactics and was mistakenly praised for the sake of unkowledgable new fans……and built several titles on these bogus results….
    Now a true clean hard racer….is wrongly held to a false standard….
    Old school fans know the difference ….it is a shame the New NASCAR fan doesn’t appreciate Mark Martin as they should.