By admin | October 14, 2009
By Richard Allen
When it was announced over a year ago that Mark Martin would be joining Hendrick Motorsports hopes sprang that the long time favorite would have yet another chance at a Sprint Cup title.
As it turns out, Martin does indeed have one of his best chances at a championship. After qualifying for the Chase for the Championship the driver of car #5 has placed himself right in the thick of contention. With six races remaining, the venerable 50 year old star sits in second place, just twelve points out of first.
Martin has finished second in the final standings four times and third another four times over the course of his career. Some would argue that he should have won a title at least once but was denied due to penalties imposed by NASCAR for questionable violations.
This time around there is one major problem with Martin’s sentimental journey toward his much awaited crowning as NASCAR’s top driver. Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader, seems to believe he has a date with history. The reigning champ stands squarely in the way of Martin’s trophy.
Johnson has won the last three Sprint Cup championships, which last year tied him with the legendary Cale Yarborough with three titles in a row. A fourth consecutive Chase win would certainly rank among the great feats in the sport’s history. A first win by Martin would rank as a favorite among many long time followers of this form of racing.
So, for many racing fans the choice becomes one of witnessing history vs. seeing a sentimental favorite finally earn a title.
But there is one more thing to consider. Another segment of fans may opt to cheer for neither. Both of these drivers race for Hendrick Motorsports. The behemoth team has established itself as the dominate force in NASCAR over the past several years and in so doing has gained many fans but also many detractors. Neither history nor sentiment may be enough to get some fans to root for this team to take yet another trophy.
While it is certainly not a given that one of these two drivers will ultimately be crowned as the season victor, the odds are increasingly working in their favor. Each week more and more drivers fade from contention. Right now, Juan Pablo Montoya remains within striking distance, just 58 points behind Johnson. With six races remaining there will be plenty of opportunities for these two leaders to come back to the pack.
But for now at least, it appears as though the Johnson vs. Martin scenario is the most likely to play out right down to the end race in Homestead, Florida. So, would you rather witness history or witness a feel good moment?
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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