Plenty Of Gas Left In Mark Martin’s Tank

Charlotte, NC (May 16, 2011) – You would think that a driver who has averaged a top-five finish nearly once every three races and comes home in the top 10 every other race throughout his career wouldn’t have any problems finding a seat for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

Mark Martin is hoping that will be the case.

Martin, who will leave Hendrick Motorsports after his contract runs out at the end of this season, proved again Sunday that there is plenty of gas left in the tank with a solid second-place finish at Dover.

“Something really, really fun and exciting is going to work out for me, something that will be very rewarding, and I’m in no hurry to force that to happen,” said Martin during a teleconference prior to the Dover race last week. “I’ll just wait until it sort of falls in my lap, just like the 5 car did. I wasn’t looking for a job when the 5 thing fell into my lap.”

Unlike the vast majority of drivers who stretch their careers to the point where they are non-competitive, a shadow of their past greatness, Martin at age 52 is still able to get the job done. Detractors will say he ‘lucked’ into Sunday’s runner-up finish behind friend and star pupil Matt Kenseth by taking no tires late and then holding on over the final 30 laps.

A closer look indicates that Martin is having yet another solid season – his 29th Cup campaign – with four top-10 finishes in the first 11 events. His 14.7 finishing average this year would be even more respectable if it weren’t for a crash not of his making that resulted in a 36th-place effort at Texas in early April.

Currently, Martin is 11th in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, just four points out of the final automatic selection spot of 10th and a mere 18 markers behind Kenseth in the seventh spot. Right now, Martin is also ahead of Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – his more heralded Hendrick Motorsports teammates – in the standings. Ditto for Kasey Kahne, who will replace Martin in the No. 5 HMS Chevy in 2012.

Clearly, Martin isn’t even close to being washed up and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. At present, Martin is easily the best 2012 ‘free agent’ on the board – especially when you consider how much more he brings to the party than just great driving talent.

If this guy can’t get a job next year, then there’s something really wrong with the sport.

Play Nice

NASCAR’s ‘boys have at it’ philosophy turned into a ‘play nice’ warning this week as both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch were fined and put on double secret probation for the next four events after their antics at Darlington a week ago.

Several drivers, most notably Tony Stewart, openly questioned NASCAR’s policy stating that there needed to be more clarity to the edict. In reality, NASCAR’s position is as clear as it has always been – they are going to penalize anyone when and however they want to.

For as long as we can remember, NASCAR penalties have been issued at random, a patchwork quilt of financial and probationary hand slaps that, frankly, we’re okay with. It’s only when NASCAR starts taking away points earned in previous events that we start having issues with how they are steering the ship.

So, full speed ahead boys. As long as the action – and sometimes carnage – stays on the track and off pit road or in the garage area, it’s going to be business as usual for NASCAR and they way they implement penalties in the sport.

Anyone who has been in NASCAR for any length of time shouldn’t have any questions about that. If they do, then they haven’t been paying attention.

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