Making His Mark

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CONCORD, N.C. - Never say never.

Words to live by, especially if you're Mark Martin.

The veteran driver thought last year would be his final full-time season in the NEXTEL Cup Series. And the emotion surrounding his farewell tour was certainly on display during his thrilling win in last year's edition of the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge.

But here it is 2006, and here's Martin back to defend his all-star title. In fact, the Roush racing driver is looking for his third career win in the event, which would tie a record.

"We’ve really been performing well," Martin said. "We’ve had really outstanding cars this year with our Fusion and I don’t know. I don’t like to make predictions, but I don’t think it would be a prediction to say that we expect to run real well here. I’d say that’s more of an expectation than a prediction."

Expectations for Martin are high after another strong start to the season, basically picking up where he left off last year. Martin is currently fifth in the NEXTEL Cup Series point standings, but because the all-star race is a non-points event knows the approach will be different this weekend.

"Because it’s not a points race, you’re concern about things going bad – either being in an accident or taking a risk, whether it be pit strategy or anything else – it means less," he said. "It’s more OK. In other words, if you’re running along and you’re running good but you’re probably not gonna be able to win the race, the difference between running sixth and taking a chance to win, you don’t hedge for that."

While Martin says he will definitely hang-up his full-time NEXTEL Cup Series helmet at the end of the year, he does plan on jumping into the Craftsman Truck Series on a full-time basis next season.

But there's one thing Martin won't be doing anytime in the near future and that's becoming a team owner.

"No, absolutely not," Martin said. "It is not a good business model. It’s hard to control and contain and predict your costs, especially with Toyota coming in as well. That’s going to make it even more difficult to predict your costs and lay out a long-range plan and make a long-term commitment with a sponsor and all those things, and then implement those. I would be broke no matter how much money I’ve got for sponsorship because of the escalating cost of things. With my competitive nature, I wouldn’t have the discipline to run it like a business."

So while the sun may be setting on Martin the Cup driver, he'll still be a visible force in NASCAR racing for some years to come. But when the day finally does come that the Arkansas native completely rides off into the sunset, what would he like his legacy to be?

"First of all, let me rearrange that just slightly because I’ve come up with an answer to ‘how do you want to be remembered?’" he laughed. "My answer is I just want to be remembered. I hope that I’m respected for the drive and desire and commitment that I’ve made to my career."

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