Four years after Mark Martin’s retirement, came what he feels was the most rewarding aspect of his career — being inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Martin, along with team owner Rick Hendrick, Benny Parsons, Raymond Parks and Richard Childress were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
For Martin, the prestigious honor was overwhelming as he glanced around the Hall and noticed other legendary names forever etched in NASCAR’s history.
“The night I got inducted, I looked at all the banners around there of all the people in the Hall of Fame, I was definitely uncomfortable, and almost embarrassed to be going in,” Martin told SPEED SPORT. “Because there are so many greats and heroes of the sport that were in there already.There were a bunch that weren’t in there yet.
“I almost felt a little bit unworthy. There are a lot of others, that still aren’t in there, that should be in there. Being inducted into the Hall was the crown jewel of my career.”
While Martin isn’t a regular at the race track anymore, he’s staying busy with numerous projects and a newfound love of life on the road.
“It kind of took me a couple of years to really find my groove, and I just sort of reconnected to the kid that I was when I left Arkansas to go chase my dream,” Martin said. “It’s been really, really cool. So much good times with family and made new friends.
“Probably the biggest thing that I have done that I really enjoy is getting out in my motorcoach and seeing the country that I always just flew over. All I ever saw during my racing career was from the airport to the racetrack.
“Arlene (his wife) and I have really enjoyed getting out and seeing this beautiful country, and we made a lot of friends in the motorcoach world,” Martin added. “That’s kind of my thing is a motorcoach. It’s kind of like my late model was before I went NASCAR racing when I worked on race cars every day, it’s just kind of my thing. It’s sort of a cross between a show car or a hot rod.”
One of Martin’s most recent trips came last fall, when he and his wife took a Northeast tour to experience the nuances of Maine, Massachusetts, and many other states.
“There’s so much else in the world besides just a race car,” Martin said. “That’s all I’d ever paid any attention to. I could have been successful and probably had a few other things on my radar screen, but that just wasn’t me. I was all in. I never thought about anything but how to make my race car go faster.”
With their recent travels, the Martins have been able to be a part of a new type of family on the road, one that he feels is similar to NASCAR.
“A lot of them are retired folks like I am, they’re retired and they had some kind of career that was pretty demanding and they’re retired now,” Martin said. “It’s not quite like the family that you have at the race track. But it’s a lot like it. When we can get together at rallies or big motorcoach events at RV resorts or something like that.”
Though he’s been away from NASCAR as a driver, Martin has remained connected with the sport in various ways.
Martin’s son, Matt, suggested the Hall of Famer work on a book, detailing his career.
“He came to me and said, ‘Man, we need to do a book,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know about that,’ Martin said. “But it’s just such his passion that I decided to go forward with it.”
With SPEED SPORT contributor Bones Bourcier at the helm of the project, Martin is aiming for the book to be released in 2023.
The book, however, was only the start for Mark and Matt Martin.
The two have created an Instagram page under the name Mark Martin Archive, which showcases old photos of Martin through the years.
The offerings have been well-received.
“He just started that Instagram page, and man, it just blew right through 10,000 followers in no time,” Martin said. “Then, he decided that he would start some merchandising as well.”
Through an online website, Martin connects with fans by selling retro T-shirts and diecast cars from his storied career.
“We’ve just had a blast with that, we’ve had so much fun,” Martin said. “The response has just been overwhelming, the Mark Mark Archive Instagram page, but also the merchandising stuff is really starting to roll now.”
Bigger projects have rolled around, including a reunion with some of Martin’s old race cars.
“Because Matt has gotten so involved in all this historical stuff about my career, I own JR-10, which is the 10th car we built at Roush’s, the one we got our first win with in 1989,” Martin said.
Martin scored three victories with chassis JR-10, the last one coming at Phoenix Raceway in 1993.
“I own that car, it’s in my museum. Well, I didn’t know it wasn’t historically, period correct for the 1989 win,” Martin said. “When I got it, it was in Valvoline colors. And I had it restored back to what I thought was 1989 Rockingham.
“Matt knows a lot more about it. And then he pointed out that it was the wrong paint color, and just some different things. So we just restored that car back to a period-correct 1989.”
Through Matt Martin’s research, they’ve identified the chassis number of 32 of Martin’s 40 Cup Series victories.
Martin’s final victory came at New Hampshire in 2009. Fortunately, they were able to track down the chassis number, back to where it was built.
“He discovered that Hendrick Motorsports still had that car, car 538,” Martin said. “So I contacted Rick (Hendrick), and we worked a deal. He just honestly gave me the car. We’re in the process now of getting that car from him and having it restored back to the Loudon race.
“I’m gonna have my first win and my last win cars in my possession, which is pretty cool. All this stuff wouldn’t happen if Matt hadn’t started this idea of wanting to do this book.”
With his career behind him, Martin’s deep roots in motorsports keep the 63-year-old in the thick of the sport, as he connects the past with the present in numerous ways.
While Martin reflected one final time on his Hall of Fame career, the word respect came to mind.
“The respect was more important to me. The trophies were real important to me, winning races was really important to me. But, the respect was probably even more important,” Martin said. “That’s something you can’t luck into. You can luck into a win, but you can’t luck into respect.
“You have to earn it. That was really important to me. There was a lot race fans that their favorite driver was Earnhardt, Gordon or whoever. But, most of them respected me even if they weren’t my fans. That means a lot to me.”Follow @DHoffmanMedia22