TOP STORY NO. 10: RETURN OF MARK MARTIN

Everybody loves a good comeback. And boy-oh-boy did Mark Martin get all Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe from “Friends") on 2009, enough to merit the No. 10 top story of  the year.

What happend?
Martin, who is 50 for those wondering, kicked ass. After racing a part-time schedule in 2007 and 2008, Martin signed with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the red-headed stepchild car. Martin turned that stepchild into a Brock Lesnar man-beast. He won five times and had 21 single-digit finishes. Martin finished second in the standings for the fifth time in his career, earning more points than ever before. Did I mention he’s 50?

Where are we now?
Martin signed an extension through 2011 to stay at Hendrick. He was one of eight drivers who improved from the first third of the season to the middle third of the season to the final third of the season. There’s no reason to think he can’t contend for his first season title at 51.  

 
Why should you care?

Martin is racing’s Tom Watson; a guy who should never have a shot when you look only at his age. Martin is ageless in terms of focus, drive and love of gangster rap. This is a great people story we will be talking about years from now. From a racing perspective, he got this Hendrick team on track. Brian Vickers never did anything with it. Ditto for Casey Mears. In one year, he went from Crapola to Wahooville. As a result, Martin’s success relegated NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., to fourth place at the Hendrick juggernaut. This is unprecedented. It’s also a heck of a lot better than what old Phoebe could drum up for her comeback.