I am no longer blogging here at Little Nuances, but I would love for you to join me on my author website www.leewarren.info.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Mark Martin's Legacy

I became interested in NASCAR last year after I wrote a sports book—part of which included a section about the sport. I started watching NASCAR the last few weeks of the 2005 season and I was sorry to see the last race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway come and go—especially after seeing what driver Mark Martin did.

As he battled for the lead with Greg Biffle, Martin realized something. Biffle's car was better, so rather than wrecking himself or Biffle, he backed off and allowed Biffle to win. Afterward, Biffle was highly complementary of Martin's actions. Turns out, Martin has been known for such actions for a long time. But that one action turned me into a huge fan of Mark Martin and of NASCAR in general.

As the 2006 season got underway in Daytona in February, controversy was brewing because of a practice called "bump drafting," that a high number of drivers were using. Drivers who use this technique pull up behind slower cars and bump them to let the driver of the slower car know that he needs to move over, or sometimes aggressive drivers do it to get their opponent's car "loose" so they can pass the slower car.

Through the first few weeks of the 2006 season, the controversy about the practice continued to grow. A couple of races ago, in Bristol (TN), Kurt Busch bump drafted Matt Kenseth and knocked Kenseth's car up the track far enough for Busch to get around him with just a few laps remaining. Busch went on to win and Kenseth wasn't real happy about the way Busch did it.

When Kenseth was asked how he decides when he needs to be aggressive and when he needs to back off during the heat of battle, he said that he asks himself this question: "What would Mark Martin do?"

Mark Martin has never won the Nextel Cup Championship and he's in the final year of his 24 year career. And while I'm sure that he desperately wants to win the championship this season and go out on top (he's currently in the top ten in points), I'm guessing that he has to feel the ultimate amount of satisfaction in hearing what Kenseth said about him. A piece of Mark Martin will continue racing after he's retired, and I think I already know who my new favorite driver will be.  


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