Martin Rides Off Quietly

Mark Martin

Martin walked away after finishing 19th in what likely is his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. (Photo: Getty Images)

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - There was no hoopla when it ended, just as Mark Martin had sought to prevent any before Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Instead, the 54-year-old Martin walked away after finishing 19th in what likely is his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. He says he has no plans to race next year, the strongest indication that his racing career is ending. He will still be in a car, though. Martin is scheduled to test for Tony Stewart’s team until Stewart returns in February at Daytona International Speedway.

A career that started in 1981 at North Wilkesboro looks to have come to an end on a warm, muggy night in South Florida.

“I wish we got that thing better for you,’’ crew chief Steve Addington radioed Martin after the race.

“Thank you buddy, you’re my hero,’’ Stewart radioed Martin.

“Appreciate it,’’ Martin said.

Martin declined to talk to reporters after the race but went to Twitter to offer his comments: “Thanks again to all the #NASCAR fans for the nice comments and support. Now it's time to start a new chapter.’’

So ends a season that saw Martin start with Michael Waltrip Racing and move to Stewart-Haas Racing after Stewart suffered a broken leg in a sprint car crash. Martin drove Stewart’s car in 12 of the last 13 races. His best finish in Stewart’s car was 11th at Bristol in August.

Fellow competitors praised Martin on Twitter before the race, recognizinga driver making his 882nd career Cup start - fifth on the all-time list.

Jeff Burton, a former teammate of Martin’s wrote on Twitter: “@markmartin is a man we can all look up to. Intense competitor with an equal amount of values. Made entire sport better through his actions.’’

Joey Logano tweeted: “Sad to see my favorite driver as a kid @markmartin run his last race today. Had a blast racing with him for two of my sprint cup wins.’’

Clint Bowyer added his sense of humor in wishing Martin well on Twitter: “Congrats to @markmartin! Grateful for the time I got to spend being his teammate. May he now be able to just have a cheeseburger already!’’

Bowyer’s quip was in reference to Martin’s demanding workout program and strict diet.

Four-time IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti also showed his support on Twitter for Martin, writing: “Can't believe today is the last race of one of my heroes @markmartin , a total legend and one on the best people I've ever met.’’

Besides testing Stewart’s car, Martin also is set serve as a driver coach and do additional testing for Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

He won’t be going away. He just likely won’t be competing in front of a crowd.

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