Sunday marks the biggest day of the year in American motorsports, with the running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Veteran NASCAR driver Mark Martin began his racing career at a time when drivers were more evenly divided in pursuing a stock car or an open wheel racing career. But for the Batesville, Ark., native, an open wheel career was never a serious option until later in life.
“I was always a late model or NASCAR guy,” said Martin, who returned to regional short track racing in the late 1980s after struggling in his first two years of NASCAR competition.
“In my career, I was a Late Model – NASCAR -- Late Model – then back to NASCAR kind of guy, until I finally established myself in the sport.” Once established in NASCAR, Martin admitted he was tempted to climb into one of the high speed open wheeled racers. “I had numerous chances to drive one of Robby Gordon’s Indy cars when we had the same sponsor in the 1990s,” Martin recalled. “They just wanted to let me go play.”
He said wisdom prevailed.
“I had struggled so hard to get into NASCAR and had finally got to where I could win some races,” he said. “At that point in time, I saw no reason to go out and ‘have fun’ in an Indy car. My idea of having fun in an Indy car would be to go faster than Robby Gordon, which would be real dangerous to try. I figured I would be better off sticking to stock cars!”