Friday, February 20, 2015

Mark Martin Among 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominees

Mark Martin was among the 20 nominees the NASCAR Hall of Fame announced for the 2016 class on Friday.

2005 All-Star Race
Martin's career began in 1981, but it didn't take off until 1988 when he teamed up with Jack Roush.  Martin stayed with Roush Racing through the 2006 season, and he won 35 races and 41 poles with the team. 

Martin cut back to a partial schedule and drove for Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. in 2007 and 2008, but he returned to full-time racing in 2009 with Hendrick Motorsports.

Martin had a career resurgence in 2009, winning five races and seven poles in the No. 5 car.  He finished second in points to teammate Jimmie Johnson that season.  During his final two years at Hendrick Motorsports, he won three more poles, but those five victories in 2009 would be the last of his career.

In 2012, he returned to a part-time schedule, splitting the No. 55 car at Michael Waltrip Racing.  He won another five poles over the final two seasons in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career.  Following the 2013 season, he decided to step away from racing, and instead spend time with his family.

Though he has 96 career NASCAR victories across all three major touring series, Martin may go down as one of the greatest drivers to never win a championship.  He finished second in points five times in his career to a list of Hall of Fame drivers that includes Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson.

Martin also never won NASCAR's biggest events.  He failed to win the Daytona 500 in his career, but he came within inches in 2007.  He was beat by Kevin Harvick by .02 seconds in a finish that is still a thorn in the side to the group of Mark Martin fans who call themselves "Markaholics."

Martin does hold the record, however, for the most victories and championships in the now-defunct International Race of Champions.  IROC pitted the best drivers from racing series around the world in equally prepared cars in a four-race season.  Martin picked up 13 victories and five championships during 12 seasons in the series.  

It was announced earlier in the year that Martin would be inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame as a part of the class of 2015.

Here is the full list of nominees for the class of 2016 (new nominees in italics):
1.Ray Evernham
2. Harry Hyde
3. Alan Kulwicki
4. Mark Martin
5. Hershel McGriff
6. Buddy Baker
7. Red Byron
8. Richard Childress
9. Jerry Cook
10. Ray Fox
11. Rick Hendrick
12. Bobby Isaac
13. Terry Labonte
14. Raymond Parks
15. Benny Parsons
16. Larry Phillips
17. Bruton Smith
18. Mike Stefanik
19. Curtis Turner
20. Robert Yates

As a lifelong Mark Martin fan, this is great news.  I believe Mark has the ability and the stats to become a first-ballot hall of famer this year.  Last year was a tough year because it was the first time Mark hadn't been in a car at all during the season.  If he is inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2016, I think I might have to make my first trek to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

2009 victory at Darlington Raceway

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