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Mark Martin: Memorable Moments from a True Racer's Career


14. Dover 2012: "That's a bad man..."

During their tenure as teammates at Hendrick Motorsports from 2009-11, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin developed a mutual respect for one another that continues through today. Martin deemed Johnson “Superman” having won five-straight titles, and after Martin knocked him off the pole in 2012 at Dover, Johnson could only marvel at the fastest 53-year old on the planet. Martin would end the year tied with Johnson and Kahne for the most pole positions, despite entering only 24 of 36 races.

by Vito Pugliese

13. Daytona 2005: IROC XXIX

Many lament the loss of the IROC series, which pitted 12 of the world’s best drivers in equally prepared race cars. Mark Martin won a record five titles – and would have won a sixth had Dave Marcis not padded a position for Dale Earnhardt at Indy in 1999. The series’ penultimate season of 2005 saw Martin win this squeaker at Daytona over Martin Truex Jr. The elder Martin won two of the four series races and finished second in the others en route to his fifth title.

by Vito Pugliese

12. Rockingham 1989: So this is (the first of) 40

Mike Joy once deemed Rockingham “Markingham” following Martin’s dominance in Busch Grand National Series competition at the grand old track. North Carolina Motor Speedway was the site of Martin’s and Roush Racing’s first NASCAR win. With Steve Hmiel as team manager and current Vice-President of Competition for NASCAR, Robin Pemberton, as crew chief, Martin won the AC Delco 500 after having scored six runner-up finishes since the beginning of the 1988 season.

by Vito Pugliese

11. Michigan 2012: Send 'em scrambling on pit road

Mark Martin’s career has had more than its fair share of low points, as well. In 2012, while leading at Michigan, he slowed to avoid running into Juan Pablo Montoya and Bobby Labonte as Kasey Kahne — in his former No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports ride — piled into the back of him. The No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine impaled itself into the end of the pit wall, narrowly missing Martin, and rupturing the oil tank, which sits directly behind the driver. Note how he continues to drive the car, releasing the brakes, trying to swing the car out of the direction of the crew. Oddly enough, it just happened to be the No. 5 pit wall on which the car was hung.

by Vito Pugliese

10. Talladega 1997: Fastest to 500

There are a few speed records in NASCAR that endure to this day: The fastest qualifying lap (212.809 mph by Bill Elliott at Talladega in 1987), the fastest Daytona 500 (177.602 mph by Buddy Baker in 1980), and the fastest 500 miles race, at 188.354 mph, which was won by Mark Martin at Talladega in 1997. Having to hold off Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett at the height of their restrictor plate greatness was no easy feat (fast forward to 2:09:00), but Martin did so and the record holds to this day … in an era where the cars have hit 208-plus mph while drafting.

by Vito Pugliese

9. Sears Point 1989: "Because I was ... inverted."

It’s one thing when the pit crew leaves a lug nut off and quite another when the wheel itself is loose. However, it gets really bad when all of the lug nuts are loose and the wheel comes off. In a turn. Going uphill. Martin, in his younger years, would give Brad Keselowski a run (mmpfff … get it?!!) for his money as he high-tails it back to the pits Balboa-style to give the guys an earful.

by Vito Pugliese

8. 1996 Coca-Cola 600: Wheelman

It’s not always the wins or the wrecks that make for a driver’s most memorable moment. In the 1996 Coca-Cola 600, Martin weaves through a perpetual wreck that starts just past the start-finish line on a restart and doesn’t end until the exit of Turn 2. Lots of steering, shifting and pedal work here; the in-car starts at 2:44 as he’s dodging cars from all angles … and the Valvoline Thunderbird emerges unscathed.

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by Vito Pugliese

7. 2002 Coca-Cola 600: Million Dollar Mark

In 2002, Martin snapped a 73-race winless streak dating back to 2000, after Roush Racing got off on a tangent by way of inaccurate aerodynamic data during the ’01 season. By 2002, it had things figured out and the organization was on a role. Martin had to hold off protégé Matt Kenseth at the end in the ’02 Coke 600, going three-wide through lap traffic to gain some distance on the young challenger. Perhaps the oddest thing is seeing Martin attempt a series of lazy, half-hearted donuts in the infield. It’s like watching Barry Sanders spike the football after a touchdown.

by Vito Pugliese

6. Talladega 1994: Checking out the Talladega infield

They say the craziest infield is the one at Talladega and, in 1994, the Martin’s No. 6 car looked to join the jubilee in the Winston Select 500. After losing brakes and steering, Martin was along for the ride, nearly breaching the fence that separated the fans from the track. Listen to the off-camera comments during the live ESPN feed from Benny, Ned and Bob Jenkins, and to Martin’s reaction from the submarine belt doing its job; post-wreck interview at 8:25.

by Vito Pugliese

5. Michigan 2009: Fuel-mileage miracle

The 2009 season was Martin’s comeback year with Hendrick Motorsports after pulling back for a couple of years to catch his breath, regroup and reconnect with those who took a backseat to his racing the previous 20 years. It was also the second-best season of his career from a stats perspective, with his first of five wins coming at Phoenix, where he held off current employer Tony Stewart. The win in Michigan, though, was the most improbable, as Martin finally takes advantage of some good luck.

by Vito Pugliese

4. 2007 Daytona 500: Yellow schmellow ... what blocked track?

The 2007 Daytona 500 was the closest and, arguably, wildest finish in the event’s history by way of a green-white-checker restart. Kevin Harvick makes a mad dash up the outside and gets Martin’s No. 01 Ginn Racing Chevrolet lose as they come through Turn 3. Exiting the turn is where things get weird. The track is blocked with cars wrecking, flipping over, upside down and on fire. For the first time since 2003, NASCAR does not throw the caution flag for the track-blocker and allows the race to continue. Martin pulls down to the yellow line to break Harvick’s side-draft and catch the yellow that’s coming … but never flies.

by Vito Pugliese

3. Bristol 1993: The third of four in a row

The modern-era record for winning four consecutive races is shared by a handful of drivers: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin. Martin tied the mark during a summer run in 1993 at Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol and Darlington. In the Bristol race, Martin made up two laps after having to stop for loose lug nuts — which he also had to do at Watkins Glen a few weeks earlier. Keep in mind this was without “Lucky Dogs,” “wave-arounds” and whatever other gimmicky tricks NASCAR has employed to keep the field close. Yeah, this was just hauling ass for 500 laps. In this clip, notice Geoff Bodine, who will not move out of Martin’s way, which nearly costs him the win. And as he pulls into Victory Lane, the brakes catch fire and the driver looks a little worse for wear. Pick up the action at the 5:45 mark. Interview here.

by Vito Pugliese

2. D-FENSive Driving

If you’ve ever wondered if mid-80s Chevy Cavaliers and Ford Tempos suffer the effects of aero push, check out this Gatorade commercial from 2003 with Mark Martin and Jimmie Johnson as Driver’s Ed instructors. Martin looks like Michael Douglas’ character from the movie “Falling Down” (appropriate since it’s a minor miracle Martin never snapped and went off after two decades of ridiculous bad luck). Martin also had this ad from ESPN’s “Ride Along” program in 1998 with Keyshawn Johnson.

by Vito Pugliese

1. Bristol 1998: A fitting win

In 1998, Mark Martin was in the midst of a career year when his world came crashing down. His hero, best friend and father, Julian, was killed in a plane crash along with his father’s wife Shelly and Mark’s sister, Sarah. Martin showed up at Michigan a week later and had the field covered until a late-race caution ended what would have been a fitting victory to dedicate to them. Six nights later at Bristol, though, it all came together and Martin was able to dedicate a dominant win to his family – and receive a heartfelt salute from every fan in attendance.

by Vito Pugliese