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« Why don’t more fans like Jimmie Johnson? | Main | Chad Knaus making a good case to be called greatest crew chief in NASCAR history »

Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton have served NASCAR well

By admin | November 15, 2013

Mark Martin and Jeff Burton were once teammates at Roush Racing. 

By Richard Allen

Sunday’s race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway will mark the end of an era for NASCAR to some degree. With no one seemingly in any sort of hurry to sign Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton to a full contract for 2014, this will likely be the end of these three championship caliber drivers as full-time campaigners on the Sprint Cup circuit.

Finding three drivers who have conducted themselves better on behalf of the sport would be difficult to do.

Mark Martin

Martin stopped racing full time in Sprint Cup back in 2006 when he left long time employer Jack Roush. However, he came back as a full timer for Hendrick Motorsports between 2009 and 2011. Since then, he has campaigned for Michael Waltrip Racing(and Stewart-Haas Racing after Tony Stewart’s injury) on a part-time basis.

Over the course of his career, Martin has compiled some impressive statistics. He has won 40 Sprint Cup races since his entry into the sport in 1981. Add to that, the Batesville, Ark. native has scored 271 top-5 and 453 top-10 finishes. He has also amassed 56 poles in that time.

All of that doesn’t even take into consideration the 49 Nationwide(Busch) Series wins Martin racked up over the course of his career.

Bobby Labonte

Labonte is the only of these three greats to have won a Sprint Cup title. He achieved that feat in 2000. Along with that ultimate accomplishment, the Corpus Christi, Tex. driver has won 21 races in NASCAR’s top division along with 115 top-5 and 203 top-10 finishes. He has earned 26 poles during his career.

Among his victories, Labonte took checkered flags from three of the sport’s biggest events. In 1995, he scored his first career win in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. While driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, he won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis and the Southern 500 in Darlington during his championship effort of 2000.

Jeff Burton

Burton won 21 Sprint Cup events while driving for Roush and Richard Childress Racing. He also piled up 134 top-5 and 254 top-10 results. The Virginian has finished in the top-10 of the final standings ten times throughout his career. Two Coca-Cola 600 and one Southern 500 crown jewel wins are on the driver’s resume.

But perhaps more important than the wins and top-10s has been the way these drivers have conducted themselves on and away from the race track.

Martin is considered one of the most respected figures to ever occupy a NASCAR garage area. Other drivers have long looked up to the example he has set and have sought his counseling. Fans too have been drawn to this driver’s character and work ethic. His Twitter conversations with fans regarding work out and conditioning routines have become somewhat legendary.

While Martin came close on occasion, he was never able to win a Sprint Cup championship. However, that did not diminish his competitive nature nor his fighting spirit. Whether a champion on paper or not, his many fans will no doubt consider him so for many years to come.

Labonte was always the picture of consistency and class. Rarely was his name ever heard among those who were listed as bitter rivals of another driver or team. But still, this has been one of the sport’s longest running competitive forces. Earning most of his accolades while driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, the younger of the Labonte brothers seemed to always be in the mix for race wins and championships throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Burton has garnered so much respect among his fellow competitors that he is commonly referred to as ‘The Mayor’ due to the fact that he is often looked up to as a voice of reason from within the garage area. While acting as a very competitive driver, he has been one of the sport’s strongest advocates for safety innovations. His contributions to racing have been far reaching and will continue well beyond his driving career.

Burton, as of now, seems to be the only one of these three drivers who may be called upon to compete next season as rumor indicates he may start a handful of races for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Sunday’s race at the Homestead-Miami Speedway will likely be the final time in which these three strap into a car as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. However, their legacies will be long lasting within the sport. And no doubt, the Hall of Fame will come calling at some point in the future.

Topics: Articles |

3 Responses to “Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Burton have served NASCAR well”

  1. Tony Geinzer Says:
    November 16th, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Rich, also, to the mere thrill of no one and the chagrin of everyone, I feel Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, and Bobby LaBonte’s Losses are more personal for the more seasoned NASCAR and Stock Car Fan despite the fact Only Bobby LaBonte won Sprint Cup and Busch Grand National. Carl Edwards was the Busch Series(sans the Grand National and making the informal formal), with his Sprint Cup Split, and Brad Keselowski won Nationwide and Sprint Cup. Mark Martin will always and forever be “The Best Never to Win a Cup Title” 5 Sprint Cup Runnerups (1990,1994,1998,2002, AND 2009) and 2 Series Titles that don’t exist no more (ASA and IROC). Jeff Burton, even though I’d prefer him to be owner later, but, I am not his agent. And the B Side of this 6 Pack and A Pound of Retirements is Ken Schrader, who had a similar win arc to Michael Waltrip and Sterling Marlin where the fact that those 3 are the Greatest Cup Winners without A Short Track Victory. Mike Wallace, even though he’s at the autumn of his career, is one of the Greatest Stock Car and NASCAR Racers sans National Championship or Sprint Cup Racer Without A Win, Kenny Wallace, I would say the same, except his touring days began in 1986 in the ASA as Mike Wallace’s Touring Days began in 1991 in the BGN. Todd Bodine, I don’t know if he’s retired, but the hole in his legacy is a Cup Win, and from what I’ve stated, that’s 7 Drivers who might not be back by Next Spring’s Speedweeks. And even though multiwins a year are good and fun, but, they dry out quicker than the 1-2 Win A Year or Win An Ever.

  2. Chris Fiegler Says:
    November 16th, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Which Driver between Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte & Ken Schrader will Retire after the Ford Eco Boost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

  3. Pokey Says:
    November 17th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I think Ken Schrader needs to be added to this list. What a happy warrior. This guy has raced everywhere against everyone and he has done quite well overall. He has a big name, but he also has the biggest heart ever born for racing in the USA. Next time you go to your local track, where the kids are trying to make a name for themselves, you may see them racing against Schrader. They usually lose to him but he has added so much to the resumes of young drivers that he will be around forever as a legend at the best level of our sport. By the way, this Spring, go to your local track and support these kids. At least you can get in to the track for about a sawbuck and you can usually find a real snow cone while you are there. I am at the I-25 Speedway at least five times a year and it has been a great place to find other race fans like me.

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