When one thinks of hall of famers, it’s probably hard to fathom a non-champion being inducted into his/her respective hall of fame. But as the 2014 race seasond draws to a close, and Mark Martin looks to be at the end of his NASCAR career (again), I have a hard time imagining that he won’t eventually be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as, perhaps, the greatest NASCAR driver to never win a NASCAR championship.
Notice in the above paragraph that I didn’t use the words “retire” or “retirement.” That’s because Martin, himself, is refusing to utter those words, even though he’s hinted that Sunday’s Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway will probably be his last race in NASCAR. Of course, when it comes to Martin, you never really know. Remember the “Salute to You” tour of 2006? To refresh your memory, plans were for Martin to retire at the end of 2006, so his career was celebrated throughout the season that was dubbed the Mark Martin “Salute to You” tour. Rusty Wallace’s last season before retirment was also celebrated that year, but in Wallace’s case, that really was his last year of competition.
Martin ended up going part-time racing with Ginn Racing and then returned full-time racing with Hendrick Motorsports a couple years later. After a couple of full-time seasons at Hendrick Motorsports, Martin, again, scaled back to part-time competition, this time at Michael Waltrip Racing. He’s winding down this season, though, as fill-in driver for the injured Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing.
Martin says that he has no plans to race in 2014, but will serve as a test driver at SHR, primarily climbing back into the No. 14 for preseason testing at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in January as Stewart continues to recover from his broken right leg.
In his own defense, Martin contends that he never exactly used the word retire in 2006, and he’s not using that dirty word now. So is 2013 really Martin’s last hoorah? Like that famed old question, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop?” at least for now, the world may never know. Actually, I think I remember hearing once about a study that found the answer to that whole Tootsie Roll Pop thing, but I digress.
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