FORT WORTH, Texas — Mark Martin isn’t ashamed to have finished second behind some of NASCAR’s best drivers. Martin has finished runner-up to Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart in his 27-year career, and Jimmie Johnson could be added to the list as soon as next week.
At 50, Martin is still chasing that elusive Sprint Cup championship, and he’ll need to gain ground on Johnson in today’s Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway to have a legitimate shot at overtaking the three-time reigning champ. With 40 career wins, Martin is making a case for himself as the best Cup driver to never win the championship. Only Junior Johnson has more wins without a title. Fourteen times Martin finished in the top 10 in Cup points, but the easy-going Batesville, Ark., native swears he doesn’t live and die with the standings anymore. "There’s definitely no heartbreak right now,” he said. "(In 1990) I thought I could beat Earnhardt, but it turned out I was wrong. That was the one I wanted to win, probably, the most of all — when I was young and it looked like we were going to win one. "Since then, I’ve learned a lot and come to realize I’m no Dale Earnhardt. My record doesn’t stand up against his. It just doesn’t. And when you stand me up to Jeff Gordon, it just doesn’t stand up to it. Tony Stewart, too. "I think it’s pretty awesome to be able to hold my own against guys like that in the sport.” Championship or no championship, younger drivers envy his career situation. "To see him walking around the garage with his head up, his chest out, having a blast, every driver in the garage likes to see that,” Carl Edwards said.