Mark Martin raced to a NASCAR Hall of Fame career and achieved most of that success at Roush Racing. He was always a fan favorite. Even since retiring, fans still talk glowingly about the driver, who most consider the greatest never to win a championship.
This past weekend, fans had an opportunity to see the 63-year-old in a special appearance at Las Vegas. It was a memorable moment, but one that the driver would later reveal bothered him because there was something important missing.
Mark Martin races to Hall of Fame career at Roush Racing
Mark Martin made his Cup Series debut in 1981 on a part-time basis. In 1988, he got his break when he signed with Roush Racing to drive the No. 6 car full-time. He claimed his first win at Carolina a year later and was off and running.
Over the course of the next 17 years, Martin won 34 times with Roush. From 1993-98, he was one of the most dominant cars in the series. In that 1993 season, he won five times, including an impressive streak of four consecutive at Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, and Darlington. He finished third in the standings that year.
The 1998 season was his best from an overall win total when he won seven times, including the inaugural race at Las Vegas. He finished second in the final standings in what would turn out to be the third of four times in his career.
He raced with Roush through 2006 and won his last race with organization in 2005 at Kansas.
Martin makes pace lap at Las Vegas
This past weekend with the Cup Series in Sin City, Mark Martin made a guest appearance. But this wasn’t a typical stop where he just mingled with fans and took photos and signed autographs. The former driver actually turned a lap around the track in the famous No. 6 Valvoline car, leading the field in a pace lap, in commemoration of his win at the track 24 years earlier.
Moments before Martin made the lap, he couldn’t hide his excitement and revealed what the moment meant to him.
“Unbelievable,” he said after sitting in the seat. “This is surreal to sit here and look out this windshield. It’s like I never stopped doing it. It’s like the gap between then and now all of a sudden disappears. It’s just gone.”
Hurt by RFK Racing completely ignoring him
Before and after Martin made his way around the 1.5-mile track to the cheers of the adoring crowd, he did the normal, visiting with fans, signing autographs, and taking photos. However, as much fun as the driver had reliving the first-ever win at Las Vegas; he would candidly admit hours after the race on social media how something was noticeably absent from the day’s festivities.
“I was hoping to see some folks from @RFKracing today but never did,” Martin tweeted. “The fans response was overwhelming though. Thank you to each and every one of you.”
A day later, with the sting still present, the driver again shared his feelings on social media about the missed opportunity.
“I love Jack Roush with all my heart,” he wrote. “I stayed with him 19 years because he gave me a chance when no one else would. We missed a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a picture together celebrating a 24 year old car and winning moment.”
For Martin, the fact that not a single representative from RFK, like team co-owner Brad Keselowski, bothered to stop by and shake his hand during the day was understandably painful. That’s obvious by his remarks. While the outpouring of support from the fans didn’t erase the hurt, it certainly softened the blow and let him know that even years after racing he’s still revered as one of the sport’s all-time favorites.
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