|Mike Eddy was TOUGH|
At some point in the last 40 years, Mark Martin has raced against just about every top short-track driver in the United States and Canada. His 30-year NASCAR career, combined with many more years of campaigning on short tracks across the country make him a pretty good judge of driving talent.
And while Martin has squared off against all the big-name NASCAR stars -- Petty, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Wallace, Gordon, Johnson and more – a return to the Irish Hills of Michigan this week brings back memories of one of the toughest customers ever to turn a wheel; Midland, Michigan’s Mike Eddy.
“He was phenomenal,” said Martin of Eddy, a seven-time champion of the now defunct American Speed Association. ASA prepared drivers like Martin, Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Johnny Benson, Ted Musgrave and others for the rigors of national caliber competition. Few of them got the best of Eddy, who won the ASA championship in 1974, 1976, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1991 and 1992.
“That series was the training ground for many of us,” said Martin, who claimed the 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1986 ASA titles. “Most of the races were long, pit-stop races, so you learned the skills you needed to race in NASCAR. Plus, they had good television and print media coverage. You had to learn the whole package. They really prepared you well for moving into NASCAR.”
|Not someone you wanted on your back bumper|
To win a title in the ASA, you had to beat Eddy, a hulking driver known as “The Polar Bear” whose driving style, intimidating manner and familiar No. 88 were reminiscent of the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. In addition to his seven championships, Eddy was also ASA's all-time leader in laps lead, starts and Top-10 finishes. He ranked second in all-time victories with 58 and second on the circuit’s all-time earnings list.
“Mike knew his race cars,” recalled Martin. “He did his setup and tire staggers himself. Like most of the greats at that time, he was real, real aggressive. He would definitely put on a show and he was fun to watch.”
Despite winning nearly 60 races in the ultra-competitive ASA, Eddy never ventured into NASCAR, preferring to remain on the Midwest short tracks that gave him his start.
“That was back in a time when you could make a living running late models and racing in the ASA,” explained Martin. “He didn’t need to come to NASCAR, but he would have made a great NASCAR driver.
“He wasn’t your average driving personality. He was different. Hard edged. He got the job done. He was tough to beat, no matter where he went. He was always one of the ones we needed to beat, for sure.”Photos: JalopyJournal.com