Column: Age not a factor for Mark Martin

Published 7:43 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The old man can still get the job done.
They may call Mark Martin “The Kid” in NASCAR circles, but he is the circuit’s elder statesman.
Age just isn’t a factor for Martin. He claims that his reaction time isn’t what it once was and I believe that.
He also said that what he does with that reaction time now is better than it used to be when he was a much younger driver.
I believe that too.
But what I believe more than either of those two statements is that Martin has more dedication and desire than half of the drivers in the Sprint Cup Series and those who are half his age.
His work ethic is second to none and there are some of the younger drivers who could not keep up with Martin in the gym during his workouts, which were highlighted on a recent pre-race telecast.
I have had the pleasure of interviewing Martin at the track and I can tell you from personal experience, there are very few drivers as nice as he is.
There are also a lot of drivers that do not have the same class on or off the track that Martin does.
He is a gentleman, but don’t let that fool you. He has a fire deep within that wants to win as much as anyone else who sits behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car.
He was going to retire a couple of years ago, the same year that Rusty Wallace hung up his driving shoes.
Then he was going to run only a part-time schedule. That didn’t work out too well either.
But no one has mocked him for flip-flopping on his decision to step away from racing.
He has had a couple of outstanding opportunities to continue to drive and he took them.
Who could blame him?
The latest of course came with Hendrick Motorsports.
Martin jumped at the chance and it has paid big dividends already in 2009.
Martin leads the circuit with four wins heading to Indianapolis this weekend.
He is currently inside the Top 12 in points, but just barely at No. 11.
My hope is that Martin can remain in the Top 12 and earn a spot in the Chase for the Championship playoff format that NASCAR has.
I would love to see him win that elusive driver’s championship. No one deserves it more than he does.
Martin has been a great spokesman for NASCAR and it would be nice to see him rewarded with a title.
Time will tell. If Martin can avoid any bad luck over the next handful of races I believe he will qualify for the post season.
His four wins would put him in the No. 1 position to begin the Chase as it’s based on bonus points.
Just like when he gets out in front of the field in a race, Martin is one of those guys who can bring it home.
I like Mark’s chances this year if he can continue to win races and stay inside the Top 12.
It’s been a tough season for NASCAR due to the state of the economy and car companies going out bankrupt and scaling back its support.
Having Mark Martin compete for a Sprint Cup championship would certainly be a positive for the sport.

Scott Novak is sports editor of Leader Publications. He can be reached at; or by phone at (269) 687-7702