Martin Roush Bond Special

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Mark Martin has seen too much death in recent years. He lost his father, Julian, in 1998. He lost his fellow drivers Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty in 2000. He lost his friend, Dale Earnhardt, in 2001.

He almost lost another friend last Friday night. But Jack Roush is getting better, Martin said, and that’s a big relief.

“My prayer, and this is a little bit personal and private, for 2002 was that I wouldn’t have to bury any of my friends or family,” Martin said. “I’m just so grateful that my prayers are coming true so far.

“Jack’s going to be back 100 percent. We had a very, very good visit (Monday). He wrote on the notepad that we had been through a lot. I said, ‘Yeah, and we’re going to go through a lot more, too.’ ”

Martin and Roush have been together since 1988, when Martin joined Roush Racing for its initial venture in NASCAR Winston Cup racing. Only one of Roush’s other drivers, Jeff Burton (the others are Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Jon Wood), have been with Roush for even half as long as Martin.

There have been many highs and lows through the 14-plus years of Roush’s and Martin’s relationship, but their friendship remains strong.

“He is a great friend, and a really, really good person,” Martin said. “He’s someone who likes the underdogs that are willing to work hard and fight hard like he did.”

Roush, of course, is recovering in a Birmingham, Ala. hospital from injuries suffered in a plane crash last Friday.

“I spent some quality time with Jack,” Martin said. “He was 100 percent as far as his alertness and the way his thinking process was going. He was Jack Roush 100 percent.”

And that was quite a change, at least from Martin’s perspective, from Friday.

“Things did not look good Friday night,” Martin said. “There was some confusion about Jack’s state of coma, which really was a little bit scary to us. He was unresponsive in a coma Friday night when he got to the Birmingham hospital, but as it turns out, that coma had been induced because of all the things he had been going through.

“As he started coming off the medication, he became apparent that he was sharp as a tack already. Spending time with him (Monday), his mind was 100 percent. I don’t think there was any head injury to even deal with. That was our biggest fear. Broken bones will mend, but that’s a tougher nut to tackle.”

Some of their conversation was about Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“He asked about the race,” Martin said. “He did have a tube in his throat still, so he was writing notes, ‘How about the race?’ He wrote ‘1, 2, 3 and 4,’ and I told him (who finished) first, second, third and fourth. Before I got that out of my mouth, he put ‘6, 99, 17 and 97.’ I think that may have been what he was really asking was how did the four cars do.

“Before I got that out of my mouth, I was telling him about Matt Kenseth and I being in a wreck. He wrote, ‘Points’ out beside there, so he wanted to know what the points were.”

Roush wasn’t all serious, Martin said.

“We had some good times,” Martin said. “We discussed the fear that we had on Friday night of the possible brain damage, and he wrote, ‘Brain damage could be good.’ You have to know Jack. That’s Jack 100 percent.”

Fans may not know Roush well, but Martin didn’t mind talking about him Tuesday morning.

“I would enjoy telling you a little bit about what he’s like,” Martin said. “Jack Roush is a man who has never bought a race driver, unlike many car owners. Jack had to work incredibly hard against giant odds to become successful, the kind of success that he’s wanted to have in business as well as in racing. Jack identifies with people who want it really bad and are willing to work really, really hard and really deserve an opportunity.

“He likes to give people a chance to realize their dreams. He is indescribably loyal to people who have the right heart and desire and work ethic. When he’s around friend and people that he’s comfortable, he’s a loosened-up, fun kind of guy. He has those times when he’s real loose and really a lot of fun. But he certainly knows how to get down to business and has a fiercely serious side to him as well.”

Much of Roush’s relaxation time was spent in the air. He’s an airplane enthusiast and owns a fully restored World War II-vintage P-51 Mustang fighter plane. But though he was injured in an airplane, Martin said Roush won’t quit flying.

“You’re asking me to speculate, and I’m going to speculate that it won’t put any damper at all,” Martin said. “I’ll be visiting him again before California, and as inappropriate as it may seem, I’m going to take him some airplane stuff to read and look at. I think I know Jack Roush very well, and his life is racecars and airplanes. Nothing’s going to change that.”

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