2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee profile: Mark Martin – Charlotte Observer

Mark Martin

Born: Jan. 9, 1959, Batesville, Ark.

Family: Wife Arlene, son Matt, four step-children.

Career highlights: Winner of 40 races in NASCAR’s top series, now the Monster Energy Cup. … Four-time champion in both the International Race Of Champions Series (IROC) and the American Speed Association tour. …. Five-time runner-up in points races for the championship of NASCAR’s foremost circuit – 1990,’94, ’98, 2002, ’09. …

His first victory came in the 1982 AC Delco 500 at N.C. Motor Speedway and his last in the 2009 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire. … Biggest victories were in the 1993 and 2009 Southern 500s at Darlington Raceway, the 1995 and ’97 Winston 500s at Talladega Superspeedway and the 2002 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. ….

Took the 1998 and 2005 All-Star Challenge events at Charlotte and the 1999 Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. … Named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. Inducted into Motorsports Hall Of Fame Of America, 2015.

Statistics: Martin’s 40 Cup Series triumphs in 882 starts over a 31-year career (spent mostly with Roush Racing) from 1981-2013 rank him 17th on the all-time list. … Had 453 top-10 finishes and 56 poles. Posted 49 victories, second most all-time, and 152 top-10s along with 30 poles in 236 Xfinity level races over a 23-year span. … Triumphed seven times and had 20 top-10s in 25 races during five years on the Camping World Truck Series tour.

Reflections

Retired Observer motorsports writer Tom Higgins on Mark Martin:

I first saw him: In the late 1970s after he won the pole for a Busch Series race N.C. Motor Speedway and came to the press box for an interview. I thought someone was trying to pull a joke on the media present, for Martin appeared only old enough to be in junior high school. … I always considered Martin a consummate pro throughout his career for the clean way he drove and his reluctance to criticize fellow drivers, even though on several occasions he had every right to do so.

What people might not know about him: Martin became a physical fitness devotee and worked out with a passion. He sought out a good gym in every city where he competed. Press people nicknamed him “Little Schwarzenegger.” Also, as an avid pilot he made his home for many years in a Florida community not far from Daytona Beach that had a runway. He kept the plane at his home in an “airport” next to the carport. … In retirement, Martin and his family have moved back to his hometown of Batesville. He owns four auto dealerships in Arkansas.

Most memorable quote: “I started learning to drive when I was about 6 years old, sitting on my daddy’s lap. We’d drive on winding roads out in the country. One day we came to a narrow bridge. I got scared and said, ‘I can’t make it, I can’t make it! Take the wheel!’ My dad wouldn’t do it. He wanted to build up my confidence. So I drove across that bridge. And I’ve been pretty confident ever since.”

(Note: Martin tragically lost his father, Julian, stepmother and half-sister to the crash of their private plane on Aug. 8, 1998 near Great Basin National Park in Nevada).

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