Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mark Martin found unusual path to friendship with Bobby Allison

Mark Martin says Bobby Allison shouldn’t have liked him.

Martin had excelled on short tracks and won championships in the American Speed Association series in the late '70s and early '80s, and early in his career he raced late models against the Allisons.

However, the first time he met Bobby he sent Allison flying out of the racetrack in Pensacola, Fla.

“I was a young kid, and I guess the caution came out, and I was one of those young kids that ain’t seen a caution yet,” Martin said. “It was a good thing they didn’t have walls. He went over the bank and out, but it didn’t tear him up.”

Allison said he was leading the race and Martin was a lap or two behind when he wrecked Allison so he could get his name in the newspaper the next day.

Although he may not have made the world’s greatest first impression, Martin thinks his prowess as a short-track racer impressed Allison and he became a mentor for Martin in the early 1980s, even to the point of flying Martin to Hueytown, Ala., and letting Martin sleep in his basement between the Martinsville and Talladega race weekends.

“He fired me in there in the pitch, black dark,” Martin said. “I think there was a number of Allison kids down there, but I never saw them because it was dark when I got to bed.”

As he established his career and became one of the top drivers in NASCAR, Martin put the lessons he learned from Allison, both about racing and life, into practice and has helped many drivers in the beginning stages of their career, including his endorsement that put Joey Logano on the map as an up-and-coming star.

Being such a humble person, Martin doesn’t like to take credit for what he has done for the sport, especially compared to Allison.

“I don’t hold a candle to him,” Martin said. “I’m ashamed of myself when I compare myself to the kind of person Bobby really was to racing.”

Allison said he is proud of the way Martin’s career has turned out and is happy he was able to help Martin when he was still getting his feet under him in NASCAR.

“Look how he turned out,” Allison said. “Really, really good.”

The help and guidance Allison gave Martin may have helped him take his career to the point where he will someday join Allison as a Hall of Famer.

Most of all it gave him a lifelong friendship, even if it took a little nudge to break the ice.

1 comment:

  1. I can barely imagine Mark being aggressive enough to punt anyone for press but I guess those were the days!
    Thanks Mayer!