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Mark Martin, who still won’t stand for any disrespect, strung together an impressive professional racing career that landed him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. He experienced plenty of success along the way to cement his legacy among the all-time greats.

He wasn’t perfect, though. In fact, one of his blunders during a race cost him a whopping $18,000.

Mark Martin’s impressive NASCAR career

Mark Martin spent more than three decades as a NASCAR driver.

He recorded 40 NASCAR Cup Series race wins, 453 top-10 finishes, and five second-place finishes in the NASCAR Cup Series championship standings. He ended his career as the all-time leader in Xfinity race wins (49), though Kyle Busch has since passed him. He also holds the all-time mark with five International Race of Champions titles.

Martin is on the short list of candidates to be known as the best driver who never won a Cup Series title.

But despite all of his success, one foolish mistake still sticks out, partially because it cost him a significant chunk of change.

Mark Martin’s foolish mistake in a NASCAR race cost him $18,000

Mark Martin hit his stride in the 1990s as he became one of the sport’s most successful drivers. But he wasn’t perfect.

In April 1994, he started from the pole position for the then-Busch Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Martin raced ahead of the pack for much of the event, but things quickly headed south when the yellow caution flag came up with two laps remaining due to Robert Pressley’s wreck in Turn 3.

During the last lap, Martin chose to head off the track and into pit road about 300 yards away from victory. His mistake led to David Green securing the surprising victory, while Martin finished 11th — the placement given to the last car on the lead lap. 

That boneheaded decision resulted in Martin losing out on the extra $18,000 he’d have earned from winning the race. According to, he said it was the “dumbest thing” he’s ever done.

“What can I say? I thought the race was over. I made a mistake,” the driver said as he climbed into his Winston Cup car for the final practice before April 1994’s Food City 500. “That was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

Some believe the mistake occurred because nobody was coaching Martin on the last lap. noted that even Jack Roush, the car owner, had left the spotter’s area before the final lap.

Mark Martin’s reputation remains intact

Although Mark Martin has never truly lived down that crucial mistake, it didn’t tarnish his Hall of Fame resume.

During the prime of his career, Martin put together several highly successful stretches that helped him nearly win five NASCAR Cup Series championships — even if he ultimately fell short each time. In 2009, near the tail end of his career, he proved an ageless wonder with a second-place finish in his 50s.

His mark on NASCAR is undeniable, and he remains one of the most respected drivers in the sport, even many years after his final race.

Still, that 1994 blunder is one he will always look back on with regret.

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