In today's NASCAR, it's one thing to enjoy driving for a team but it's another to simply enjoy driving. Many teams know their driver is happy that they are in their organization, but there is also the knowledge that they are leaving either at the end of the season or have already signed with another team.
Finding someone in the garage that simply enjoys racing, no matter who it's for, is difficult to find.
That is unless you're talking about Mark Martin. After the 2011 season, Martin went back to racing a part-time schedule, something that he wanted to do. It was the second time that Martin cut back on his schedule. He originally was set to go to a partial schedule in 2006, but when his old owner Jack Roush couldn't get a deal done for a successor, Martin came back.
He then spent two years on a part-time run before signing a three-year deal with Hendrick Motorsports, a tenure that saw him win five races and nearly win a championship.
Now he went to a part-time schedule again with Michael Waltrip Racing, with this season seeing one race as a fill-in for Denny Hamlin and now as a substitute for the injured Tony Stewart.
Since 2006, Martin has been at the wheel of six different cars for six different organizations, but the difference in Martin is that it didn't matter what car he drove, nor what team he drove for, he simply loved what he was doing.
"...my motivation for racing is not for points, it's for racing. I want to race, and I want to finish -- if I'm running 20th, I'll bust my butt to run 19th," Martin said yesterday. That's how he is, if he can get that one better position he will do it, and not wreck someone to do it. He'll just flat out run hard, but not take someone out to get that position.
He's not a substitute driver or a replacement driver by any stretch of the imagination. Martin is just a driver, one that loves what he does.
It's seen every time he raced the No. 55 car, and whether he had a spectacular race or a mediocre finish, he always praised the team, crew chief Rodney Childers, Michael Waltrip Racing, and even Brian Vickers for the job he's done when Martin himself wasn't in the car. He did the same thing when he was in the No. 5, the No. 6 at Jack Roush, and even his short tenure at DEI when he was at the wheel of the Army car.
Martin is truly one that can honestly say he simply loves to race in NASCAR, and is grateful to have done so for so long.
There's a void that will be left when Martin decides to hang up his helmet for good, but judging by how much he loves what he does, even if it's a part-time run in a competitive car for a competitive organization, he will do it. He's been a mentor to many drivers, and has competed alongside the greats of years past and present, all the while getting respect from each driver he battles.
Martin simply is a racer, nothing more, nothing less.