Last night, Mark Martin won at Phoenix, his first career win for Rick Hendrick and first Cup win in far too long. You may have noticed his Kulwicki victory lap in honor of his late, lamented friend (Alan Kulwicki won his first career race at Phoenix); what you may not know is that he has some definite feelings toward the post-race victory celebrations to which we’ve become so accustomed. He publicly called burnouts “juvenile,” and I completely agree. Last night, he said that there was no way he was going to do any such thing, instead remembering a friend. That was class, folks, and that’s one reason why I so respect Mark Martin. Every driver, no matter the series, at every level, needs to pay very strict attention to him and learn from his example.
I’d said to my wife the day before the race, “When Mark wins tomorrow night—” She looked at me like I was throwing a twelve-letter curse or something at him, which would never occur to me. But honestly I had a feeling, based partly on his performance in qualifying and practice and partly on the understanding that the man was ridiculously overdue for a win. He may be past fifty years of age, but when you’re in the physical shape in which he keeps himself, those years turn into a real advantage. Last night he used it.
And all of us who’ve likewise passed into middle age should remember that years equal experience. Granted, there may be fewer of those years ahead of us, but as long as we also use that experience as wisely as possible, we can still contribute. Human culture reveres youth, but people like Martin prove the practical value of rich, long experience.
Later Update: He’s also my choice to win the ’09 Cup title. I’m just sayin.’