Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Superstitious Martin Waves Off Lucky Charms

Mark Martin has spent 30 years in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. He has competed against many of the sport’s greatest drivers, including Richard Petty, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and modern day heroes like Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. He has raced at the 200-mph superspeedways and banged fenders on the bullrings in the days before SAFER barriers, HANS devices, full-faced helmets and roof flaps.

Nothing has ever unnerved the 53-year-old Batesville, Ark. Native, who has made 40 trips to Victory Lane. But, there’s still one thing in racing he says makes his skin crawl.
“It’s good luck charms,” laughs Martin. “I don’t like them at all.”
When well-intentioned fans hand him four-leaf clovers, rabbit’s feet or other supposed good luck charms, Martin immediately hands them off to the first person he can find.
“I try not to insult fans when they give me something,” he said. “I try to be nice and say thank you, but I can’t get rid of them fast enough.”
That’s unusual in a sport where some drivers carry good luck charms in their cars, tape inspirational verses to the dashboard and put lucky coins in their uniform pockets. Through the years, drivers have shunned green paint schemes, eating peanuts in the garage area and the No. 13; all believed to be harbingers of bad luck.
Martin insists he has good reason to shun those trinkets, dating back to a Sunday afternoon in 1993 at North Wilkesboro (NC) Speedway. A well-meaning fan gave Martin a four-leaf clover for luck that day, and he taped it to the dash of his car.

“I got hit in the back right after the green flag came out,” Martin recalled. “I got hit so hard it destroyed my car and ruined our race. We got all tore up.”
That was the end of good luck charms, and the Michael Waltrip Racing driver insists, “I have been anti-lucky charm ever since.”

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