Woody: Martin’s Final Title Shot Is Over
By Larry Woody | Senior Writer
The end came quietly, with no fuss and fanfare – sort of the way Mark Martin’s entire racing career has gone.
Martin failed to make the cut for this season’s NASCAR playoffs that open a 10-race run Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Following last Saturday night’s race at Richmond, attention was lavished on the 12 drivers who made the championship Chase – some of whom weren’t born when Martin launched his Cup career in 1981.
Meanwhile Martin quietly slipped away into the night. He finished 10th in the race, boosting him three spots in the standings to 16th. Close, but not good enough. The story of his career.
Five times Martin has been runner-up but never champion. This was his last shot with a championship-caliber team.
Martin will leave Hendrick Motorsports at the end of the season. He says he wants to keep racing, although no plans have been finalized. There has been talk of a part-time schedule.
Even if Martin should land a full-time ride, it won’t be with one of the sport’s elite teams of Hendrick caliber. He turns 53 in January, and while he may continue to race, he won’t be
chasing any more cup championships.
In 2009 Martin finished 2nd to teammate Jimmie Johnson in the championship battle. That incredible run fanned hopes of another title quest last year, but it didn’t materialize. Martin finished 13th.
This season’s struggles were worse. He failed to win in 26 races and managed only two top-5 finishes. For the past month it had been evident that he wasn’t going to make the Chase. Now it’s final and so is Mark’s legacy.
He is destined to go down in history as one of NASCAR’s most respected drivers as well as one of its greatest – the greatest never to win a championship.
He has always refused to become bogged down in disappointment and negativity. He prefers to remember all that’s he’s won, rather than dwell on all that he’s lost. He says he’s content to know that he has always raced hard and done his best, even if his best wasn’t quiet good enough for a title.
Despite the stiff-lipped bravado, it has to sting for the proud old warrior as he rides into the sunset of a remarkable career without ever getting to hoist the big trophy.
What does the future hold for Martin? Nobody seems to know, including Mark himself. But one thing it WON’T hold is a championship.
This season represented his last best chance and now that chance is gone. By failing to make the championship field Martin won’t have an opportunity to make another miracle run and punctuate his career with a storybook finish.
Maybe it’s just as well, considering Mark’s past runner-up history. A heart can be broken only so many times.
– Larry Woody can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments