Rockingham Good To Martin
October 21, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
The New York Yankees making it to the World Series every October. Nebraska or Florida St. challenging for the national championship in college football every year. Mark Martin winning the Busch race at North Carolina Speedway.
The latter has happened 11 times over Martin's illustrious career. The driver of the No. 60 Winn-Dixie Ford will try to add to that number for the final time on Saturday in the Sam's Club 200 at "The Rock."
Much to the delight of many of his competitors, Martin announced earlier this season the 2000 campaign would be his final one in Busch Series competition.
More than one-quarter of Martin's 45 career Busch Series triumphs have come at the 1.017-mile oval, including the Alltel 200 earlier this season. There's nothing Martin would cherish more than to leave North Carolina Speedway for the final time with a sweep of this year's races and yet another momento for his trophy case.
"I'd really like to win there one more time before the Winn-Dixie team ends," Martin said. "I've won 11 races there so far, and the guys want to make it an
even dozen. I won't be coming back anytime soon to go for a baker's dozen
(13) if we win this weekend."
Martin's final race in his Busch Series "Farewell Tour" will be the
Hotwheels.com 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 11.
His final season in the Busch Series has produced some very favorable
results. In only 11 starts, Martin has five victories and 11 Top 5 finishes.
That's right, he hasn't finished out of the Top 5 in any race he's entered
Leaving Busch Series competition was a difficult decision for him, Martin
said, but he's got more important business to attend to in the future.
"Winning races is what I live for," Martin said. "I've dedicated 25 years of
my life to it. I'm really going to miss it, but it's time to make the move
and focus on the Winston Cup championship. I'll be walking away from quite a
bit of joy."
Martin's first Busch Series triumph at Rockingham came in the spring event in
1988 in a race that saw names like Dale Jarrett, Bobby Hillin and Harry Gant
finish in the Top 5. It would be his only Busch Series victory that year.
He didn't win again at Rockingham until the fall of 1992, when he outdueled a
kid named Jeff Gordon to take the checkered flag. That began a string of
three consecutive fall race victories at "The Rock." In fact, Martin has won
six of the last eight fall events there.
"This is one of the track I excel on," Martin said. "One mile high-banked to
two mile banked; with 750 horsepower you can spin the tires. After 20 years
of racing, looking back at my history, I specialize in momentum race tracks."
Martin holds the track record for the fastest Busch Series race ever at
Rockingham. He set that mark of 124.397 mph (1 hr., 36 min., 38 sec.) on Oct.
19, 1996. That may fall sometime in the near future, but don't expect anyone
to surpass his record for career Busch Series victories there.
Only Dale Earnhardt (four) and Harry Gant (two) have more than one career
Busch Series victory at Rockingham.
It may be Martin's final Busch Series race at Rockingham, but don't expect
any tears from any of his fellow competitors. That includes Jeff Green, who
can wrap up the series championship if he scores 29 points more than Jason
Green has finished second to Martin the last two races at North Carolina
"I'm tired of finishing second there," the driver of the No. 10 NesQuik Chevy
said. "It's our turn to win. With this being his last race there, I know he's
going to do everything he can to win. But we're going to do everything in our
power to see that doesn't happen. We're out here to win races just like he