MARK MARTIN REMEMBERS A MENTOR
NO. 55 AARON’S DREAM MACHINE TOYOTA
COKE 600 PREVIEW
CORNELIUS, N.C. — No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Mark Martin finished a media session Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and walked only a few steps away before quickly turning around.
“I remember one more thing,” he said as a smile came across his face. He had just spent five minutes talking about Dick Trickle to the assembled NASCAR media.
But even after the session his memories kept coming.
Less than 24 hours earlier, Trickle, 71, racing’s “winningest short track driver” had ended a life that included over 1,200 race victories and mentoring some of the sport’s brightest stars on the short tracks of middle America.
One teenager seeking Trickle’s wisdom was Martin who battled the Wisconsin legend in several stock car series before moving south to win 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup races and likely earn a place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
“Dick made himself a mentor to many, Rusty (Wallace), myself, Alan Kulwicki — you know we wouldn’t have been the racers that we were when we got here had we not come under his influence,” said Martin.
Martin didn’t subscribe to everything in Trickle’s legendary lifestyle. Martin didn’t smoke in the race car and he certainly couldn’t keep up with Trickle’s rule of needing only an hour of sleep for each 100 laps of the next day’s race. But Martin and others learned plenty.
“I was proud of who we were and the racers we were. For the influence that he had on us and the etiquette and the way he raced. He raced us real hard on the race track, but off the race track, he was very free with parts or advice — he gave freely.”
Those short track days may be a memory but the lessons learned as a teenager under Trickle’s guidance are still around. When Martin starts Sunday’s Coke 600 he’ll remember one of the first lessons.
“He was the one that told me, and this is kind of corny, but it isn’t when you’re 18 or 19 years old. He told me in order to finish first, first you must finish. That has always kind of stuck with me.”
Trickle’s last NASCAR race came in 2002 and Martin said the pair had rarely crossed paths of late, but “he was part of the influence that helped mold the people and racers that we were.”
As for that extra memory Martin added after the media session?
It goes back to 1977 when the 18-year-old Martin travelled from Arkansas to Wisconsin where they raced five nights a week. The promoter at Wisconsin Rapids’, high-banked, third-mile Golden Sands Speedway offered $100 bonus to anyone breaking the track record.
Martin set a new track record and grabbed the provisional pole. As qualifying wound down he started thinking of ways to spend the extra cash.
All of sudden an open trailer arrived at the track then rolled through the pits with an idling racecar sitting on the back. The crew climbed from the trailer, dropped the gate and Trickle drove the car down the ramp then onto the track where he knocked Martin off the pole and set a new track record.
“After beating me he got on to me for breaking the record too much. He said we were only supposed to break it a little at a time so we could collect the 100$ every week,” laughed Martin.
“I’m sure he’d like to be remembered the way all of us that knew him remember him — and that is he was a hell of a hard guy to beat.”
MARK MARTIN ON COKE 600: “The 600 is one of the top races of the year up there with Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. I love racing at Charlotte. The mile-and-a-half tracks are some of my favorite tracks. It’s long, it starts in the heat of the day and ends at night – it has lots of challenges. We had a pretty rough All-Star race after getting spun. But the 600 is a whole other ball game. Qualifying well Thursday night is the first step. ”
· STATS: In 56 starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Martin owns four victories (600 race in 2002 and fall races in 1992,1995 & 2002) and 18 top-five finishes. He’s led 1,185 laps and won poles at both races in 1991. Martin owns 40 Sprint Cup, 49 Nationwide and seven Camping World Truck Series victories. He’s led 12,856 laps in Sprint Cup competition. Martin has started 862 Sprint Cup races, 236 Nationwide races and 25 truck events. He also owns 13 IROC wins in 47 starts.
· POLES: Martin owns five poles in 32 races with MWR. He is seventh on the all-time pole list with 56 poles including one in 2013 at Phoenix.
· MWR FAN FEST MOVED TO FALL: Michael Waltrip Racing will host its annual Fan Fest in the fall at the height of NASCAR’s “Chase for the Sprint Cup.” The event at MWR’s headquarters in Cornelius, N.C., has traditionally been held during Charlotte Motor Speedway’s May events, but this season the race shop is undergoing some capital improvements to further enhance the visitor and employee experience. This month MWR began construction of a new 7,500-square-foot training facility. The multi-level gym will further the skills of pit crew members. The facility includes an inlaid car silhouette so crews can practice agility drills around a car, free weights, weight machines, CrossFit elements, cardio equipment as well as locker rooms and offices. Construction should conclude in June.
· PAINT SCHEME: The No. 55 and all MWR Toyotas will carry special “NASCAR: An American Salute” paint Scheme on Sunday at Charlotte.