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Mark Martin Knows the Challenge

by Monte Dutton

In 2009, Mark Martin enjoyed a glorious comeback, finishing second in the Sprint Cup standings and winning five races.

And that was at age 50. Now Martin is 51, and results haven’t been as encouraging this season for the Batesville, Ark. native.

At the moment, Martin has to worry about making the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which is limited to the top 12 in the point standings at the end of the 26 races that comprise the regular season. The championship is then determined over the final 10.

Martin knows he faces a challenge to make the Chase, and he knows pressure will increase and tempers will flare as the next seven races wind down.

“As we go forward, the kind of racing that we had at the end of [recent races] will not be every three weeks in the future,” he said. “It will be every week, everywhere. Right now it’s every third week or so.

“That’s what equal cars, double-file restarts and all that stuff brings you to, which is going to be fun to watch.”

Though Martin has only competed once in the Nationwide Series this year, he is its all-time leader with 48 victories, though Kyle Busch is closing in and now has 37 victories, including seven this year.

“Records are going to fall, and I’m going to stand there and watch them,” said Martin. “Just as Jack Ingram [31 wins] stood and watched his fall, it’s not going stand the test of time, but that’s okay, too. That still doesn’t lessen what I did, what I managed to do.”

Martin’s 40 Cup victories rank him 16 th alltime, trailing Bill Elliott by four.

Racing isn’t just competitive. To Martin’s way of thinking, it’s rougher and more aggressive than ever.

“It’s getting worse mostly because of the nature of our racing and the growth of the sport,” he said. “You wouldn’t be able to keep a job if you raced 20 years ago, if you drove for somebody and you wrecked as many cars as you wreck today. You wouldn’t keep a job.

“The teams could not justify it. They didn’t have the manpower. They didn’t have the money. They couldn’t repair these cars and get them back out there. You wouldn’t last. But it’s a different day and age now. It is just different, and there’s a lot of pressure on these guys.”

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo.com. ‘© 2010 King Features Syndicate

Mark Martin, shown with his wife, Arlene, finished second in the Cup Series points last season. This season, however, he’s currently outside the top 12, looking for a way to get in. (by John Clark/ NASCAR This Week photo)

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