Most people begin to slow down when they hit their 50s.
Mark Martin is not most people.
After racing to a 10th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, the 53-year young Martin put his new Michael Waltrip Racing/Aaron’s Toyota on the pole for Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway; the 52nd pole of his career.
|Mark Martin keeps rolling at PIR|
Martin’s fast lap spoiled a solid pole bid by Regan Smith, who owned the No. 1 starting spot for much of the qualifying session before being bumped to third by Martin and defending series champion Tony Stewart in the late going. Stewart, who will start second Sunday, gave Martin full credit for being able to thrive with so many different teams in his career.
“It doesn't matter whose car he drives, he's good in it,'' said Stewart. “It's cool to see… a guy like Mark that has bounced around to different organizations, been fast and won races everywhere he's been.”
''I work real hard at it,” admitted Martin after Saturday's pole-winning lap. “I know I have to work harder at it than guys that are 20 years younger than me. I'm willing to do that to be able to compete.”
Part of that regimen is a fanatic commitment to diet and exercise. When pressed, Martin admits his last Big Mac was likely consumed in the early `80s, and his body fat percentages rival those of 33-year old fellow workout fiend Carl Edwards.
He has raced for a smorgasbord of major NASCAR teams; from Roush Fenway Racing to Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Ginn Racing, Hendrick Motorsports and now Michael Waltrip Racing. Through it all, there has been just one constant; Martin’s ability to compete and win at the sport’s highest level. He is considered by many to be the best NASCAR driver never to win a championship, a statistic that is unlikely to change with only a part-time, 24-race schedule with MWR.
Unable – and also unwilling – to chase a championship in the twilight of his career, Martin contents himself with chasing the checkered flag. He insists that's enough to keep his competitive fire burning, and this afternoon at PIR, he’ll lead the field to the green flag from the pole position.
If everything goes right, by the end of the day he’ll be a three-time winner on the one-mile desert oval.