NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin spent 31 years racing in the sport’s top level, and during that time he has seen plenty. Martin shared some of those tales on the inaugural episode of “The Mark Martin Podcast.”
Taking fan questions in the opening episode, Martin detailed a time in the mid-1990s when he was aggravated with seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt.
“I had some issues with Earnhardt,” Martin said in response to a question about who made him the maddest at the track. “The stories on Earnhardt are Dale really respected me before I got to NASCAR. He knew who I was. He treated me with great respect until one day in the mid-90s he wakes up and thinks, boy I’ll just mess with Mark. See how much he’ll take.
“And then he started pushing my buttons for the fun of it. I would go out for practice. Try to run by myself and he would come out and he’d wait for me. He’d come out right beside me and he’d get on the outside of me. That’s when cars were just starting to get aero loose with a car on the outside. And he’d mess with me and mess with me and mess with me.
“I had finally got tired of it at Michigan so he got on my outside and I switched it on him. I got ahead of him and let him get on the inside of me and when he did, it sucked him around. And he spun out and he wrecked me. I had not wrecked myself or him all this time he had been messing with me. And it pissed me off because it wrecked my car. So I was mad and that was in practice. That wasn’t in a race.
“The next weekend on Friday at New Hampshire we roll out on the race track, here he is. So he does the same thing. I put the wheel on him in practice and he comes in after practice and he looks at his PR guy and says ‘I think Mark’s had enough.’ And that’s all. He was just playing.”
Some additional highlights from Martin’s podcast include the worst decision he ever made — turning down the chance to drive the No. 28 car from crew chief Waddell Wilson, a ride that went on to win the 1983 Daytona 500 — to which year he felt was his best chance at a title and, of course, his love of rap.
On how he came to join Twitter: “I would never have been on Twitter had it not for Michael Waltrip. I started driving for Michael Waltrip in 2012 and he pushed me several times to get on Twitter. And so one day, I’m sitting in his office and he says ‘give me your phone.’ So I handed it to him and he handed it back and I was on Twitter.
“… Really love the interaction with the fans, especially the fans that reach back to the old days. I love the photographs that I see on there and get on there. And I share those with everyone else. … I appreciate the opportunity to connect with the race fans. They gave me so much. They gave me my career and extended my career because they followed me so strongly.”
On the best decision he made in racing: “I guess the best decision I ever made was giving in to Rick Hendrick’s pressure to come back full time. I told him no twice.” Martin had told Hendrick he would run a part-time schedule in the No. 5 car.
“And then I just got to thinking, gosh I would love to win one more time before my career is over. So I gave in and dreams came true. We won seven poles and five races and ran second in the championship to Jimmie Johnson (in 2009). Had a chance at it.”
On why he identifies so much with the small teams: “I really identify with the guys who are working on their own cars and riding in the trucks across the country and trying to do this and do what they love. Jordan Anderson is one of them that’s fun to follow because he’s seeing the countryside from the windshield of his dually and racing his truck on the weekends. I just have a lot of appreciation for the guys that are in there grinding and working hard.”