CONCORD, N.C. -- Mark Martin never saw it coming.
Even when the NASCAR Hall of Fame whittled down its nominees to the final 20 -- including Martin -- the driver was sure he wouldn't make the final five.
"I knew there were a lot of people that I felt like should go in before me," he said. "If I had been voting, I would’ve voted a different way. I didn’t expect it at all."
But Wednesday night, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France called his name, cementing him as part of the 2017 Hall of Fame class.
"It still hasn’t sunk in," he said. "I still don’t know what to say – I’m a little bit speechless."
Throughout his career, Martin's work on the track spoke for itself.
In his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, he accumulated 40 wins, 271 top-five finishes, 453 top-10 results and 56 poles over more than three decades of work.
A 96-time race winner in NASCAR national series competitions, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
Even with all of his accolades, he said Wednesday night's honor topped them all.
"Words can’t describe it -- it’s definitely the crown jewel of my career," he said. "I never got the championship, never got the Daytona 500."
But he certainly came close. In the Daytona 500, he notched six top-five finishes, including a runner-up result in 2007 by just .02 seconds.
And as for the championship, he finished second in the standings five times -- 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2009.
"At Hendrick Motorsports I just got to work with so many amazing people. (Crew chief) Alan Gustafson made magic."Mark Martin
The 2009 campaign came with Hendrick Motorsports -- his first of three campaigns racing for the organization. And it was one of the most memorable of his entire career.
"That 2009 season pretty much rocks," Martin smiled.
That year, he won five races for the organization in addition to 14 top-five finishes, 21 top-10s and seven pole positions – which led the series. His five wins that year were second only to teammate and eventual series champion Jimmie Johnson.
"At Hendrick Motorsports I just got to work with so many amazing people," Martin said. "(Crew chief) Alan Gustafson made magic. He took a 52-year-old guy and he whipped up on the young guys with the old man. That was one of the most special years of my career.”
In three seasons with Hendrick Motorsports, he amassed 23 top-five finishes, 42 top-10 results and 10 pole positions in addition to his five wins.
Now, he's headed into the Hall of Fame alongside Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
"It’s absolutely amazing," Martin said. "You know, Rick Hendrick has done so much in the sport. And all the guys, too."
Joining them in the class of 2017 are Raymond Parks, Richard Childress and Benny Parsons, who also raced a season for Hendrick Motorsports.
"To be in the same class with him is just -- I’m honored and overwhelmed," Martin said of Parsons.
"I’m definitely so grateful for the opportunity that I had and the instrumental people in making it happen. I got a chance to work with great people and Hall of Famers.”