Opportunities at Daytona 500 wane for Martin

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013

Time is running out for Mark Martin.

Whether it’s next season, the one after or a few down the road, Martin will shortly bring a close to his long and distinguished NASCAR career.

While replete with numerous victories and special moments, Martin’s career is often noted for the absence of two things – a NASCAR championship and a victory in the Daytona 500.

No longer running a fulltime schedule, the chance at a championship is gone for Martin, but the opportunity for a Daytona 500 still remains.

As the 2013 season gets underway, the numbers at least seem to be lining up for Martin to cap his career with a win in the “Great American Race.”

Martin, 54, will drive the No. 55 Toyota in 24 points races and two nonpoints races in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR). At the moment, Martin has no plans finalized after this season.

“I’m not superstitious and I don’t believe in lucky charms or anything like that. In fact, I avoid all that stuff,” Martin said. “But I have noticed this is the 55th Daytona 500 and the No. 55 is a pretty cool number, don’t you think?

“We want to get Speedweeks started right with a good (qualifying) lap on Sunday. That gets us a good spot to start next Thursday’s qualifying race. I think you are going to want to be as close to the front of the pack as you can be this year.”

“Nobody knows what to expect.”

Do not expect Martin to dwell on the idea of adding a line to his racing resume. He has never been one to quantify his career by what he hasn’t done, but rather treasures every chance at victory that has come his way.

This week’s Sprint Unlimited, formerly known as the Bud Shootout, serves as a reminder that Martin has tasted victory at Daytona in the past, just not on its biggest stage.

In 1999, while still running for owner Jack Roush, Martin earned his only victory at Daytona in a Cup series car, winning the nonpoints Shootout.

“I would really like to win at this place, but I feel that same way every time I go by any race track that we currently race on. I haven’t lost any sleep over the fact that I haven’t won at Daytona before and now I certainly won’t,” Martin said after that victory.

“I hope that we win a Daytona 500, but I believe if you do the work and you give your very best effort, then you need to accept the results, whatever they are, because there’s not much else you can do.”

Martin also won the 2006 Truck Series season opener at Daytona – one of six races he won that year in 14 starts.

Another nonpoints victory to begin Speedweeks would certainly help set the stage for a first 500 victory for Martin in what could also be his final start in the race.

“All I can say at the moment is I don’t expect to be in the No. 55 as the driver next year. My goal is to see MWR, (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and the No. 55 car race for a championship,” Martin said.

“I want to help build MWR. It might still be driving some or it might be working with the pit crew or the drivers, who knows. It’s too early to tell.

“I’m having fun doing what I am doing now and plan to do everything that I can to try to win races and perform.”

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