Mark Martin may not be a full-time driver anymore, but that doesn’t mean the veteran driver is finished reaching NASCAR career milestones. Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway is the perfect example. When Martin takes the green flag from behind the wheel of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota on Saturday, it’ll be the 850th time he’s done so in Sprint Cup Series competition.
“That’s just a number,” Martin said. “It doesn’t mean anything to me.”
The number 850 may not be significant to Martin, but it’s an impressive number, nonetheless. When Martin makes career start 850 on Saturday, he’ll have made the fifth-most starts in NASCAR history.
“The number of starts doesn’t impress me,” Martin continued. “It’s what you did in those starts that can be impressive or not. The fact that I have started a lot of races doesn’t stack up very high on the impression meter for me.”
Despite never winning a Cup championship, what Martin has accomplished in his first 849 starts is definitely impressive, at least by most people’s standards. Those accomplishments include 40 wins and 270 top-five finishes. Not to mention, he’s grabbed 55 pole starts.
Martin has claimed four poles this year, the most of any driver on the circuit, despite only running a partial schedule.
Martin stuck to his humble persona by crediting some of the people he’s worked with over the years for the success.
“I have been very fortunate through the years to work with a lot of great people and drive some very fast race cars,” Martin said. “Not everyone can say that. I have really been blessed.”
Aside from his current co-workers at Michael Waltrip Racing, Martin has worked with groups at Roush Fenway Racing, Ginn Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Hendrick Motorsports.
Martin had a rocky introduction to NASCAR Cup level racing in the early 1980s and eventually returned to his previous racing home, the American Speed Association.
He returned to top-level NASCAR racing, though, in the late 1980s when he was hired by car owner Jack Roush. Martin remained with Roush as a full-time driver through 2006. By that point, the driver had decided he wanted to scale back his racing schedule.
Martin headed to Ginn Racing and drove part time for that team, that eventually became a part of Dale Earnhardt Inc., through 2008.
But Martin wasn’t finished. He was once again ready for full-time Sprint Cup racing and team owner Rick Hendrick had a ride available for him. In his first year with HMS (2009) Martin won five races and finished second in the championship points standings.
Martin raced full-time, driving the No. 5 at Hendrick Motorsports, for three years before returning to part-time racing and heading to Michael Waltrip Racing to drive the No. 55 part-time this year.
Martin has only competed in 19 races so far in 2012 but in those races, he’s produced four top-fives and 8 top-10 finishes.
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