Martin Driven by Quality, Not Quantity


Martin will make his 850th career Cup Series start Saturday night in Charlotte. He's fifth on NASCAR's all-time list. (Photo: Getty Images)


For Sprint Cup Series veteran Mark Martin, the career numbers are starting to roll up like miles on an odometer … 40 wins, 55 poles and 850 career starts to name a few.

Martin’s ride through NASCAR history has touched parts of four decades and it’ll take him to Charlotte Motor Speedway this week for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500, where Martin’s No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota will carry him into that 850th career start.

That leaves him fifth on the all-time list and the 53-year-old is showing no signs of slowing down, though the gaudy career stats are not as impressive to him as they are to the legions of loyal fans.

850 starts?

“That’s just a number,” said Martin – who’s running a partial schedule in this, his 30th Cup season.  “The number of starts doesn’t impress me.  It’s what you did in those starts that can be impressive or not.”

For the record, what he’s done in those starts is pretty impressive, too.  Martin’s 40 career wins are fifth among active drivers.  Fifty-five poles?  He’s eighth all-time, with five Hall of Famers in front of him.

Saturday night will mark his 56th Cup Series start at CMS – where Martin has four wins, 14 other top-five finishes and has led more than 1,100 laps.

“I’ve been fortunate through the years to work with a lot of great people and drive some very fast cars,” said Martin, 53.  “Not everyone can say that.  I’ve been blessed.”

He’s never won a Cup Series championship, finishing second five times – most recently in 2009 to Jimmie Johnson.  This season, Martin has started 19 races while sharing seat time in the “55” with Brian Vickers and team owner Michael Waltrip.  His best finish is second (to Joey Logano) in the June stop at Pocono Raceway.  Martin has qualified on the pole in four of those 19 races, tops among all Cup drivers in 2012.

He’ll arrive in Charlotte with whatever amount of momentum is possible from running a part-time schedule, having posted third-place finishes in two of his last three starts.

“This is really a fantastic organization and we’re experiencing a lot of success right now,” Martin said of Michael Waltrip Racing, which has Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. in the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  “I have great teammates.”

The next top-10 finish to be recorded by Martin, Bowyer or Truex will be the 100th for the organization.

And in getting back to some of those flashy career numbers starting to fill up Martin’s resume these days, he does admit to finding some value in them.

“I have been blessed by the fans, that have been so supportive through the years,” Martin said.  “They’ve meant more to me in the down years than when I was flying hot.  They seem to be really behind me when the going gets tough.”

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will open practice in Charlotte on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) and qualify that evening.  Saturday’s Bank of America 500 is scheduled to get the green flag at approximately 7:45 p.m.

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