OK, raise your hand if you were secretly (or not so secretly) rooting for Mark Martin to stick his bumper to Kyle Busch last Saturday at Bristol. What a story: Good guy Martin teaches bad boy Busch a lesson about acting up on the track.
Though Martin stayed true to his reputation as a clean driver and stayed off Busch’s bumper, he nevertheless made his point. Martin believes if you can’t use your skill to pass a driver, you don’t deserve the spot. The fact that he raced Busch that way only proves that Martin, no matter how badly he wants to win his first title, will not veer from his credo.
And in doing so, maybe he gave Busch something to think about. Were the roles reversed, would the volatile Busch have raced Martin clean? The guess here is that he would, but only because it was Martin, one of the few drivers Busch respects.
The clean finish also was in Martin’s best interest since one false move could have triggered a wreck and made his title hopes disappear. By settling for second he moved to 10th in points and now has a better-than-average shot at making the Chase.
Still, as we’ve written before, there’s a reason the idea that “nice guys finish last” was made famous. While everyone respects guys such as Martin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton for their clean driving, it does hurt them at times. Everyone respects Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, but those guys know there are times when using your bumper to move a car out of the way is called for. At Bristol, it’s often the only way to pass a good car. That doesn’t mean sending them into the wall, and those three have perfected the method of creating just enough instability to slow their opponent enough to get past them.
The guess here is that, with a title on the line, Mark Martin might go a different route than he did Saturday.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...