DOB: Jan. 9, 1959
Hometown: Batesville, Ark.
Although not the oldest driver to ever win a race, Mark Martin is pretty darn close. He’s one of four drivers 50 or older to win a Sprint Cup event. Bobby Allison, Morgan Shepherd and Harry Gant were the other three.
Martin’s Sprint Cup career began a downward spiral in the new millennium, when he scored only four wins between 2000 and 2006. We don’t say this to besmirch his ability behind the wheel, because Martin was getting older and it’s not all that unusual for drivers to lose some of their edge when they pass age 40. It came as no surprise when he announced his semi-retirement in 2005. Martin had a very good career, gathering 35 wins between 1989 and 2005, and retirement or semi-retirement was certainly in order. There was just one problem – as storied as his career had been, he had never won a championship. He had been heart-breakingly close more than once, (second four different times), but NASCAR’s Holy Grail remained just out of his reach.
However, Martin ended up driving for team owner Jack Roush for the entire 2006 season because Martin’s replacement could not join the team until 2007 due to other obligations. For 2007 and 2008, Martin shared time with other drivers at DEI, running 24 races each year.
Then something happened … something wonderful.
Martin was hired by legendary car owner Rick Hendrick for the 2009 season. One of the perks of driving for Hendrick is free use of the training and development facilities at the Hendrick Institute for Kick-Ass Drivers. The same institute that genetically engineered Jeff Gordon and built the sport’s first synthetic driver, Jimmie Johnson was now at Martin’s disposal. But Martin is an old school kind of guy and decided against internal power cells and cybernetic implants in favor of just swimming laps around the Hendrick pool to get himself toned up and ready for 2009.
After his first swim, during which he was joined by his friends Don Ameche, Wilford Brimley and Hume Cronyn, Martin felt like a new man. It was subtle at first – just a little extra spring in his step and a song in his heart, but pretty soon he was staying out all night dancing and eating like a teenager without worrying about his cholesterol. After the first week, he gave away his lifetime supply of a certain prescription medication given to him by a former sponsor and he developed a curious affinity for rap music. He wasn’t sure what was going on, but it suddenly occurred to him that Rick Hendrick reminded him of someone else.
These thoughts didn’t trouble Martin for long, because when the 2009 season started, he never looked back. He posted wins at
Martin now holds 38 career victories, 247 top fives and 44 poles. He lives in