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Martin still on the hunt

Mark Martin is a man of great enthusiasm. At age 53, he is having a limited season of great success.

Martin isn’t competing full-time this year. He’s the primary driver of Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota, but has competed in only five of the seven Sprint Cup races to date. Nonetheless, he is a respectable 20th in the point standings. If he can maintain a spot in the Top 20, he would be eligible for a wild-card spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. After a third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, Martin said, “This is so much fun and such a privilege to drive a race car at this point in my career, to be able to drive a race car for a team like this.” Martin, from Batesville, Ark., has never won the Sprint Cup championship but has finished second five times: 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2009.

“After [the Samsung Mobile 500] I’m really excited,” Martin said, “but I was excited anyway. There’s nothing else that I find quite as much fun as going to work with a great race team with a great attitude. It’s fun for me to go to every race that I get to go to.”

Martin has a reputation of, by his presence, improving every team for whom he has worked. He moved to MWR after three seasons at Hendrick Motorsports in Chevys. He competed in Jack Roush’s Fords 1988-2006.

The third-place showing in Texas on April 15 came in Martin’s 835th Cup race and was his 267th top-five finish. His 40th and most recent victory occurred at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 20, 2009.

Martin’s full-time teammates, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer, currently rank fourth and 10th , respectively, in the Cup point standings.

“We’re racing three cars to put two in the Chase, for sure, and win races, and try to go toe-to-toe with the likes of Hendrick and Roush [Fenway Racing] and those guys. That’s a tall order for right now, but I’m very proud of the results we’re getting. It’s coming from a lot of good attitudes and hardworking people,” Martin said.

Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (NC) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week ( features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at nascar_thisweek@yahoo. com. © 2012 King Features Syndicate

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