CONCORD, N.C. – Mark Martin’s Indianapolis-Charlotte doubleheader will be a scramble, but with a couple planes at his disposal and a recent NASCAR Hall of Fame election, it’s worth it.
“This is an incredible privilege, an honor, and I’m extremely humbled by the opportunity to be a part of the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” Martin said.
He will be driving Sunday, too, the pace car to lead the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 to the green flag.
But if he actually were racing this weekend, his itinerary might seem considerably more daunting.
“It could be a nightmare,” Martin said Saturday during a news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I can’t imagine having that. What Kurt Busch (running the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in 2014) was amazing. Not everyone could do it. It’s amazing what he did.”
Martin’s whirlwind week began with the arrival of a text message while he was clearing bugs off the front windshield of his motorhome, which he had parked in Indianapolis after driving in from Arkansas for the weekend.
In his second year on the ballot, he had been elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame – an honor he hadn’t expected to realize for years, if ever.
He certainly hadn’t expected it this year, having booked a weekend with his family at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to attend the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.
But that couldn’t derail him from traveling to Charlotte to soak in the congratulations from his friends in the NASCAR garage.
Martin shares a plane with a business partner in Arkansas, and they have a pilot who flew Martin’s wife, Arlene, and son, Matt, to Indianapolis. They quickly turned around and flew to North Carolina, where Martin spent Saturday at the track.
He returned to Indianapolis later Saturday. After watching history Sunday at Indy, Martin will hitch a ride back to Charlotte on a NASCAR plane.
The Batesville, Arkansas, native will spend the week in Charlotte and plans to make a NASCAR America appearance on NBCSN.
“We’re going to enjoy being in Charlotte,” Martin said. “I spend most of my time in Arkansas right now. We don’t get over here as much as we like, so we’re going to enjoy being here and having some good restaurants and great grocery stores and stuff like that. It’s kind of rural where we’re at. We might even have time to catch a movie.”
Perhaps there will be time to visit friends at the race shops scattered around the city. The Coke 600 will be the first Sprint Cup race attended by Martin since his final start in the 2013 Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Though he doesn’t miss driving, Martin, 57, said he began to miss the people, particularly this season.
“The longer it’s gone, the more I’ve noticed it,” said Martin, whose career in NASCAR’s premier series mostly ran from 1988-2013. “I’ve really noticed I miss the fans, miss the competitors, and I miss the media and journalists. I do miss that. I didn’t feel like I had a place (at the track). When I drove a race car, there was a place for me here. I felt awkward about attending a race, being I don’t work on a car or drive a race car anymore.
“This is a real cool opportunity to get back and connect with my family for 30 years.”