The Old Man Tames The Lady In Black

2009 Daytona 500 133

The “Senior Citizen” of the NASCAR Sprint cup circuit has just tamed “the lady too tough to tame”, logged his second victory of the 2009 season, and the 37th win of his career.  Mark Martin has come alive this 2009 season!  What is the reason?  Could it be the two seasons of running a partial schedule? Could it be pairing up with a new owner and championship caliber race team?  The following might shed some light on the answer!

Jim Pedley, managing editor of the web site Racin Today ( has written a very good article on the recruitment of Mark Martin by Rick Hendrick.  It all started long before the announcement of his being paired up with the #5 Kelloggs team.

The recruitment began when  Rick Hendrick was talking to equally deep thinker, Jay Frye, then employed with Bobby Ginn Racing, whom Martin was driving a partial season for.  These days Jay Frye is the source behind Red Bull Racing’s rise to prominence.  Frye told Hendrick that Martin would rally love to drive one of Hendrick’s Nationwide, then Busch Series, cars at some point in time.

In response to Frye’s statement, Hendrick said, “I would love Mark to drive  one.”  So the deal was for Martin to drive two or three that first year Martin drove for Bobby Ginn Racing.  The first of those races was to be Darlington.

So off to Darlington in 2007 where Martin finihed in second place.  That alone was not what made Rick Hendrick decide to go full steam after Mark Martin. It was Mark Martin being Mark Martin!

Hendrick stated,”I was listening in on the radio, and Mark was complimenting the crew and telling them what an honor it was to drive for the crew.  I told him that he ought to be a car salesman!”  Hendrick continued,”but he was so sincere, he pumped the crew up, with virtually no practice, and Martin finished second.  Martin was running down the leader and got out of the car apologizing to the crew for letting them down, and for winning the race.”  Hendrick went on to say,”I have never heard that before! I mean, the guy had worked hard all day, and is telling the crew that he (Martin) had let the crew down!”

That led to another Nationwide start and another one, and ultimately to a friendship that racing seems to foster.

Then last year Martin won a Nationwide race at Las Vegas for Hendrick Motorsports.  After that Hendrick told Martin that he would put him in Cup car in a New York minute ,IF HE WOULD RUN THE WHOLE SEASON.  The phrase, “the whole season” was the sticking point!

A year later at Richmond, the two were talking and the point came up again.  That sticking point of running the entire year surfaced, yet again.  Rick Hendrick told Martin that he would love to put him the #5 car IF HE WOULD RACE THE ENTIRE SEASON.  Martin lobbied for a partial season.   Hendrick told him he couldn’t do a partial schedule.  Martin told Hendrick that he wished he could race a full schedule, but he had promised his family not to run a full schedule.   THE HOOK WAS SET!

Some time had passed before Rick Hendrick’s phone rang.  It was none other that Mark Martin calling to let Rick Hendrick know that Martin had a discussion with his wife, Arlene.  Martin had called Hendrick to tell him that before he died, he wanted a shot at driving for Mr. Hendrick and his guys!


Last Saturday night was more evidence that Mark Martin is rejuvenated and is a force to contend with this season!