April 24, 2004 -- Posted 9:24 p.m. CDT
BATESVILLE -- One of NASCAR's superstars pulls over for a pit stop in his home town of Batesville. Mark Martin; he's a big name in NASCAR...and about the biggest to ever come out of Batesville. Saturday, he came home to open up a new car dealership that bears his name ... and he brought some friends.
"This is my hometown, this is where I'm from, and I've got some really long range goals here that I want to do. I want to bring some excitement to Arkansas," said Martin as he signed autographs at his new Ford-Mercury Dealership.
Fans were lined up ignoring cloudy skies threatening rain. Martin met, signed autographs and posed for pictures.
"This is where I got started. There are a lot of people here that were behind me that I haven't had a chance to see in a long time. This is just the first step in getting back and being part of the community and giving back to the people who supported me through the years," said Martin.
And there was plenty of support...defending cup champion Matt Kenseth and team owner Jack Roush were also on hand for the grand opening.
"When this dealership came available Mark wanted to be involved and said, hey bring some cars and you guys come up and sign some autographs and we'll get this thing going," said Roush as he signed a little girl's tee-shirt.
Things were defiantly going Saturday afternoon. More than a thousand fans lined up to pose for pictures and get autographs. But for those who missed it, the dealership plans to pay tribute to the Number 6 driver.
"It's long range, but it's going to take three years to get them here. I have a lot of old race cars, like the car I won the million dollars with in Charlotte, my first NASCAR win, Iroc championship car and many others, along with all the trophies and the memorabilia. Some day the dealership will incorporate all that stuff," said Martin.
But he's not just lending his name...Mark Martin plans to be, where else, but the driver's seat with his new dealership.
"I'm obviously busy, but I am planning on being here a lot," laughed Martin.
It was easy to see the support for Mark Martin, Jack Roush and Matt Kenseth. Many folks had been waiting in line for the trio since early Saturday morning.
"I've been here since about 6:15. That's pretty early!" Calvin Meek, who was first in line with his children.
Donald Gray had been waiting since 7:30. He said being a fan has it's advantages.
"I've been a race fan since the early 90's. We've just followed Mark through all his career," said Gray.
"Being from the Batesville area, I've always been behind him. It's nice to see a local boy succeed," said Dean Hastings.
"His original start in NASCAR was in 1981 and then got a second chance in 1988, and we've been with him ever since," said Ashley Brown.
But it was youngster Colby Carter who summed up Mark Martin and his career the best.
"He's a nice guy and he never takes credit for all the stuff. He always gives it to his team," said Carter.