by Matt Mercer, Special To NASCAR commentary and driver pictures, 2012 NASCAR schedule, video, Bench Racing With Steve and Charlie
I'm the former blogger of The Catfish Show NASCAR Blog and a contributor to On Pit Row. Follow me on Twitter: @mattmercerJune 21, 2008 8:12 am UTC 8 Comments
An item came across NASCAR.com and it made me shake my head. Mark Martin one of my 3 favorite drivers in NASCAR history, seems to have made another guarantee. In the story last week at Pocono, he said that he plans on winning at the Brickyard in July. I have no doubt Mark can win the race. I remember 10 years ago at Indy when he had a better car than Jeff Gordon throughout the day, yet couldn’t get around him at the end. I remember when Mark left the 6 for the 01 last year, he said he would have his best chance ever to win the Daytona 500 – and he did, but came up inches short. It saddens me to see someone that’s a traditional pessimist, like Mark, get exciting for something just to be heartbroken again. I felt the heartbreak of the 2002 season because he was so close. Two years later, in the inaugural Chase, Mark arguably had the best team but accidents and bad luck struck again. At that Daytona race 16 months ago, I watched him lead those last several laps as I had a kung-fu grip on a pillow in my room, thinking that maybe, just maybe, this could be the race of his life. It was the race of his life… he finished second again, and I fell to the floor with the air knocked out of my lungs. To be a Mark Martin fan, it’s similar to what being a Red Sox fan must have been like until the 2004 playoffs. In the back of your mind, you know something will happen. I don’t know how many fans understand how much Mark means to his fans, and the heartbreak his fans have gone through with him. Many times, it takes the man himself to keep us fans from going crazy.
Fast forward to this season’s race at Phoenix, which saw Mark lead a bunch of laps and appeared to be on his way to victory. What did Mark have to lose by staying out and gambling? He pitted from the lead, had the best car, so fuel mileage should have been on Tony Gibson’s mind. Yet, it didn’t happen, and surprise, Mark lost. The guarantee at Indianapolis is interesting. He qualified well at Pocono, yet seemed to fall back more and more during the race. DEI seems to be focusing on Truex and Menard at the moment, which is perfectly understandable. The prospect of Truex leaving would put one foot in the ground, I don’t see anyone tearing down the door to get into DEI the way guys would at Gibbs right now. In a certain sense, I think Mark may have to win at Indy to keep DEI relevant. Rumors swirl about the future of the Army sponsorship, given that the 01 has had limited sponsorship, and Bass Pro Shops could be leaving for Tony Stewart’s revamped Haas Racing.
I didn’t like the movie Groundhog Day. I hate recurring dreams. Most of all, I know deep down that Mark Martin won’t win the Brickyard this year. He’ll have a flat tire with 3 to go, he’ll get crashed out by a car 9 laps down, he’ll blow his engine on the white flag lap. The worst part? I’ll still be making him my pick to win. Some habits won’t go away.
Photo credit: BethAnne Heisler - ON PIT ROW