CONCORD, N.C. – After more than 25 years in NASCAR’s premier series, Mark Martin had accomplished just about everything on his checklist.
But prior to the 2009 season, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick made the veteran driver an offer.
He asked Martin to join the Hendrick Motorsports, taking over driving duties of the No. 5 Chevrolet.
“I told him no two times and he continued to press,” Martin recalled. “I was serious – I did not want to run full-time.”
But Hendrick, who Martin laughed is “a great salesman,” didn’t let up, and the driver finally relented.
The opportunity to race for Hendrick was too much to pass up, along with one other motive.
“I just wanted to win one more race,” the former driver said. “That’s really what drew me in, the opportunity to get another win.”
But Martin didn’t just win one more race, he won five.
“And we just about got a championship,” he recalled.
Throughout his next three years with the organization, Martin claimed 10 poles, 23 top-five finishes and 42 top-10s.
“The 2009 season was just magical with (crew chief) Alan Gustafson and everyone there,” Martin said of the year he finished second to teammate Jimmie Johnson in the championship standings. “It was a real special time in my life to be able to work with Rick. He made that happen.”
Even Martin’s wife could see how special his time with Hendrick was.
“Every time I would come home from the race shop, Arlene would say that I was just beaming, smiling,” Martin said. “It’s such a professional organization and it all starts with Mr. H. He’s just an amazing person and he showed me and taught me some things about dealing and working with people that I still use.”
The Arkansas native views his time at Hendrick Motorsports among one of the “highlights” of his career and remembered the amount of pride he felt at being one of Hendrick’s four drivers.
Now, the two friends will each add another honor to their resumes as they join the NASCAR Hall of Fame – together.
“I’m not so sure I’d be going in had it not been for that amazing 2009 season that we had and that was at Rick’s hand,” Martin said. “So, it is special to go in with him.”