Veteran NASCAR driver Mark Martin was announced as the newest addition to the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame Wednesday.
The popular driver, who retired at the end of the 2013 season, received 95% of the votes cast by the NMPA membership. The organization, which is over 50 years old, consists of motorsports writers, broadcasters and photographers from throughout the U.S. and abroad.
A native of Batesville, Ark., the 57-year old driver spent 31 years in the top tier NASCAR Cup series. His 40 career victories currently rank 17th on the all-time list for the series, while his 882 career starts rank fifth overall. Martin also won 49 times in what is now the XFINITY Series and seven times in the Camping World Truck Series. He is also a five-time winner of the IROC (International Race of Champions) title.
Others receiving votes but falling short of the required 65 percent necessary for induction were veteran crew chiefs Kirk Shelmerdine (61 percent), Buddy Parrott (59 percent) and Larry McReynolds (51 percent); and long-time Martinsville Speedway public relations director Dick Thompson (59 percent).
“Those guys are heroes of mine,” Martin said. “It is just such an incredible honor to be considered along with them. I feel very fortunate and blessed but most of all I’m thankful. Very thankful.”
Alan Gustafson served as crew chief for Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon and Martin at Hendrick. He is currently the crew chief for 2016 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Chase Elliott.
“Mark drove so much by just raw feel,” Gustafson said. “His ability just to flat out drive a car, no markers, no signs no nothing, he was really good at that, which produced some amazing lap times.
“We’ve all seen it. Mark Martin, first lap on the track, is just insane. Because he doesn’t have to figure out where he’s at, he just drives by feel. He was open to working on things and doing things but he just did it a different way than drivers like Jeff and Kyle and Chase.”
Martin will be inducted into the NMPA Hall of Fame on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2017. The ceremony will come a day after Martin is inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as one of the five members of the class of 2017.