DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.– Mark Martin will join an exclusive club this Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, becoming the eighth driver to start 800 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Martin will drive the No. 5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in this weekend's event.
During a career that has spanned parts of four decades, Martin has tallied 40 victories, 264 top five finishes and 429 top 10s. His 40 wins rank 16th all-time. Coincidentally, Martinsville Speedway was the site of Martin’s first top-five finish, a third-place run on Sept. 27, 1981.
"I hate to say this isn't a big deal, because it is. But, to me, the bigger deal is what you accomplished in those starts, not just the starts themselves," Martin said.
"I've had a really good 799 starts. We've had a lot of wins, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I've made friends out here that will be friends forever, and I can't imagine anything else I would have rather been doing than racing all of those days. Beyond the stat itself or the records or whatever, it's the experiences of it all that are the most important to me."
The others who have eclipsed the 800-start barrier: Richard Petty (1,185), Ricky Rudd (906), Dave Marcis (883), Terry Labonte (870), Kyle Petty (829), Bill Elliott (825), and Darrell Waltrip (809).
Martin finished second in the final championship point standings five times, most recently in 2009 – his first season with current team Hendrick Motorsports.
Below is a timeline of Martin’s career highlights on his way to 800 starts:
1 – On April 5, 1981, Martin made his first series start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, finishing 27th. Martin made five starts in 1981, scoring two top 10s and two poles.
6 – In his first Daytona 500, on Feb. 14, 1982, he finished 30th.
58 – On Feb. 14, 1988 in the Daytona 500, Martin made his first start with owner Jack Roush. Together, they started 617 races, winning 35 of them.
100 – On June 25, 1989, at Michigan International Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 100. He finished 12th.
113 – On Oct. 22, 1989, at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham), Martin led 101 laps en route to his first career win.
200 – On Oct. 25, 1992, at Rockingham, Martin made milestone start No. 200. He finished 30th.
223 – Martin reached double digits in wins with a victory at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1993. The win was the third of four consecutive victories for Martin, the longest win streak of his career.
300 – On March 31, 1996, at Bristol, Martin made milestone start No. 300. He finished third.
326 – Finished seventh in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 1997, his 16th-consecutive top-10 finish, dating back to the previous season. That is tied for the 16th-longest streak in series history.
383 – In a victory at Dover (Del.) International Speedway on Sept. 20, 1998, Martin led 379 laps, the most of his career.
400 – On May 2, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 400. He finished 38th.
500 – Reached career milestone start No. 500 on March 24, 2002 at Bristol. He finished 11th.
506 – Won NASCAR’s longest race, the 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway on May 26, 2002.
600 – On Nov. 7, 2004, at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin made milestone start No. 600. He finished 15th.
700 – On Feb. 25, 2008, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 700. He finished 16th.
723 – On Feb. 15, 2009, at the Daytona 500, made his first start for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 16th in the No. 5 Chevrolet.
730 – At the age of 50 years, three months and nine days, Martin won at Phoenix on April 18, 2009, to join Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and Bobby Allison as the fourth over-50 driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
733 – Won one of NASCAR’s crown jewels: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2009.