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!


Martinsville….Johnson Hitting His Stride??

2009 Daytona 500 147 









It appears that the Hendrick Motorosports #48 Lowe’s Chevy is finding its stride a little earlier than they did last year!  Although the FedEx #11 led the most laps at Martinsville, he did not lead the one that pays the money- the final lap!!  With the #48 Lowes Chevy getting on track this early, that can only spell TROUBLE  for the rest of the field for 2009.  This was Johnson’s 6th win at Martinsville in 14 starts, his first victory of 2009, and his 41st victory in 261 total starts in Cup.  In fact, Johnson has won 5 of his last 6 starts at Martinsville!  That is a sign of dominance!

This victory by Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports celebrates the 25th anniversay of HMS first win at Martinsville with the #5 with Geoff Bodine at the wheel in 1984.  Back then Hendrick Motorsports was called All-Star Racing and was a new start-up racing venture by  the very young Rick Hendrick and his dad, Papa Joe!!  Since those early days of 1984, HMS has been a force to be reckoned with!!  Rick Hendrick has employed drivers like Geoff Bodine, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Mark Martin!! 

 Since those early days of 1984 All-Star Racing has gone though some dynamic changes.What started out as a racing venture of 5 employees and a rented work space of 5,000 square feet, HMS has grown into a business of 500 employees on a campus of over 500 acres!!!  Along the way in those 25 years, HMS has accumulated 12 championships, eight (8)  of them at the Cup level!!  Included in those 12 championships are 175 victories, QUITE IMPRESSIVE!!!



Last year this reporter was one of those naysayers when it came to Jimmie Johnson’s chances of winning three Cup Championships in a row, OOPS!!  Again this reporter is a naysayer on the #48 Lowe’s Chevy chances of wininning a fourth championship in a row.  Having made the above staement, this reporter will admit that the #48 Lowe’s chevy team is already flexing its collective muscle in 2009. 

Here are the reasons that are against Johnson winning a fourth championship in a row: 

Reason number one is that it has NEVER been accompolished in the  60 years of NASCAR history.  That in itself is a huge uphill battle!  There is a teammate by the name of Jeff Gordon that is HUNGRY to win  his 5th championship of his career.  Also Johnson has two other teammates that have the desire and the ability to scoop of the championship out from under his grasp,  the #5 Kelloggs Chevy of Mark Martin and of course the rock star of NASCAR, the #88 AMP/National Guard Chevy of Dale Earnhardt,Jr.  To say that Hendrick Motorsports has a very strong team this year is a huge understatement!!

Now if those reasons were not enough, try on a couple of the Rousch-Fenway teams for size.  First and foremost is the #99 Scotts Ford of Carl Edwards.  Last year had he not caused the huge pile-up at Talladega and had just one engine failure (DNF), he would have been the 2009 Sprint Cup Champion.  Never count out the #17 Dewalt Ford of Matt Kenseth. He seems to go thoughout the season flying under the radar, and suddenly as the Chase unfolds……here’s Matt!!!

Still there might be a couple of “sleeping underdogs” to watch out for this season!  Can the #14 Office Depot Chevy of Tony Stewart be a contender in his newly merged organization, Stewart-Haas Racing?  How ’bout the #14 FedEx Toyota of Denyy Hamlin, is he hungry enough? 

But the biggest question of all is the #18 JGR M&M’s Toyota of Kyle Busch!!!  We know that he can win and dominate races! But can the team win the BIG ONES in the Chase?????  Is the pressure to much for TLVW  to handle at 23 years old???  LAST YEAR THEY FOLDED UNDER THE PRESSURE!!!!!!!

Your comments on these subjects are invited, no in fact they are encouraged!!!  Log in on these questions, let this reporter know what you are thinking!



2009 Daytona 500

2009 Daytona 500 123


This week’s story lines:

1.  Matt Kenseth wins the 2009 Daytona 500:

2.  Dale Sr. will be remembered on 2/18/09:(EGR PR)

3.  Gilliland to drive the TRG #71 car for the four races:(TRG PR) 

4.  David Starr to drive the Blackjack Racing #51 at Calif:

5.  Kyle Petty not happy about merger:(st.petetimes)

6.  Rusty Wallace, Inc. considering Cup move with RCR help:   (

7.  DirectTV Hot Pass free:(

8.  Is Dale, Jr. running out of time for championship?(espn)


Sunday February 15th marked the 51st running of The Great American Race, better know as the Daytona500.  With a testing ban at all NASCAR sanctioned tracks, the teams did little to no testing at all this winter.  So when the haulers pulled through the tunnel prior to the Bud Shootout, about ten days ago, it was the race teams first glance at “the world center of speed” since the race in July of 2008.

The races of Speedweeks 2009 were very exciting.  The Bud Shootout had a new format for getting into the race,which put a different twist on that race.  It has become a manufacturer’s race now.  Nonetheless, it was an exciting “shootout” Kevin Harvick taking home all the marbles!

The Duel 150’s were very exciting and really action packed races with Jeff Gordon winning the first race and (TLVW) Kyle Busch winning the second duel.  Both of those races were action packed and very tight racing!

On Friday, The Camping World Truck race lit the night sky at Daytona.  It was a very action packed 250 mile race.  There was many lead changes and of course the impatient drivers making risky moves!  But that is the hallmark of this series, which serves to increase the use of the “rollbacks” and tow trucks at the track! 

On Saturday the Nationwide Series was main attraction at Daytona.  It sounds repetitive, but the Nationwide boys also put on one whale of a race.  There was lots of side-by-side racing throughout the entire pack, not just the front runners!  The final results was that Tony Stewart(The Smoker), won the race in the #80 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.  This new affiliation occurs because of  The Smoker’s new team, Stewart-Haas Racing, buys their cars and engines from Rick Hendrick.

On Sunday, under threatening skies, THE GREAT AMERICAN RACE takes center stage at Daytona.  With the threat of rain in the back of all the race teams minds, the green flag drops and the drivers strategy is that they need to race hard immediately.  The reason for that mind set is that the race may be called officially over once they complete the half way mark.  So the race pace and moves were furious and risky!! The racing was two wide, three wide, and sometimes momentarily four wide!!!  The drivers were racing every lap like it was the last one!   The drivers were really trying to get to the front by the halfway point, just in case the rains arrived. 

It reminded me of an old song by Steeler’s Wheel.  The lyrics go something like this “clowns to the left of me  jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you”!!!!!  The rains came and went intermittenly thoughoutthe race, but it finally cut loose and the race was called with Matt Kenseth in the lead and delcared the winner.



This reporter, along with his sidekick Jim,  arrived at Daytona for the four action packed days of racing starting with the Duel 150’s and culminating THE GREAT AMERICAN RACE, the Daytona 500.  There is something magical about Daytona that you must experience if you are a race fan!  There are only two venues that stand head and shoulders above the rest, Indianapolis and Daytona.  Having been to both venues several times, the atmosphere is charged with electricity and a great anticipation resonates throught the grandstands prior to the races there.  However, it is this reporter’s opinion, that Daytona has now far exceeded the gala at Indy( you can thank Tony George for singel-handedly mortally wounding open wheel racing)!!!  Tony George’s arrogance played right into the hands of NASCAR and allowed them to really grow their brand starting with the 1996 season, that was the first year of the IRL/CART split!


P.S.   There is candle light vigil at DEI headquarters tonight to honor Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  It was eight years ago the he lost his life on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.  He was in third place behind the eventual winner Michael Waltrip , and in second was his son Dale Jr.  Both of those cars were out of his stable at Dale Earnhardt, Inc.  This repoter is reasonably sure that THE INTIMIDATOR is quite proud of the way his son has handled himself since that tragic day, February 18, 2001!!