Mark Martin Visits Batesville to Record Dealership Commercials

JUNE 24, 2004 -- Posted at: 10:00pm CDT

BATESVILLE, AR - For more than 30 years, Mark Martin has been behind the wheel of a race car. He started his career racing in Batesville. It's a place he continues to call home.

"It's just incredible to get back and, you know, see the people that I grew up with," said Martin, during a visit to Independence County on June 24th.

As his popularity and success have increased, trips home have decreased.

Martin explained, "I get three weekends off from the first of February 'til Thanksgiving, and race weekend usually takes in four days, not to mention the testing, personal appearances and the other things that we do, so it's a wild pace."

He's kept at that speed for more than 20 years. That entire time he's been with race car team owner Jack Rouch. Now he's one of the veterans on the Rouch Racing team, which includes Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Greg Biffle.

"The negative is that I'm not a young guy with many, many years in my future as a driver, but on the plus side of that, you know, I have a seniority there that no one can touch, and I have the respect of many of these young guys, and you know, that's something that's been real important to me," Martin added.

Martin continues to battle for his first NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship, but his focus is slowing turning in different directions. He recently added car dealership co-owner to his list of titles.

He confessed, "This is the only thing that I've had a real passion for other than racing cars, and I started that when I was 15 years old, so, you know, I know that this is right, and I look forward to the excitement that we're able to bring to Arkansas, and to the people that, you know, to my people, to my hometown, and to the whole state, and the whole area."

Besides giving more time to the dealership in the future, Mark Martin would like to see more of his 12 year old son, Matt, and his truck races. He's won three so far this year.

"If he chooses to race as a career, then I'll support him 100%, but if he chooses not to race, that will be a break for me as well," Mark said.

If the elder Martin doesn't get NASCAR's highest championship cup before he hangs up his racing suit and shoes for good, Mark Martin would still consider his racing a success.

"I will say that I don't think that that trophy defines the man, and I don't think it defines a career either," explained Martin. "I think that you know the accomplishments that I've had on the race track, the respect that I've been able to gain all through the years and the reputation that I have today is more important that any trophy that I could ever have."

He's one of the most decorated NASCAR drivers, got his experience racing on the back roads around Batesville and will always keep his roots in rural Arkansas.