Daytona 500 2012: Mark Martin Not Bothered By Lack Of Victory In NASCAR's Biggest Race

Mark Martin will race in his 28th Daytona 500 next week and, so far, the future NASCAR Hall of Famer is 0-for-27.

But the Michael Waltrip Racing driver insists being winless in the world's biggest stock car race doesn't get under his skin.

"It doesn't bother me," he said Thursday during NASCAR Media Day. "At all."

Really? How could that be? I was a bit skeptical about Martin's claim, so I blurted out, "I don't believe that."

"It doesn't bother me!" he insisted.

"But why?" I asked.

"Why should it?" he said. "I didn't win it, did I? If I won it and for some reason I didn't get the trophy, that would bother me. But I didn't win it yet."

Martin's philosophy about not winning the Daytona 500 is similar to how he views the lack of a Sprint Cup Series championship in his career (he's finished second in the points five times).

"Gosh, nobody ever told me I was going to be the greatest of all time or anything like that," he said. "I'm darn lucky to have been able to participate in the sport and stumble around a few teams. I'm serious. I'm not owed anything. You earn what you get."

I wasn't totally sold on Martin's comments, though, so I pressed on. Sure, maybe he didn't feel he was owed a Daytona 500 win. But surely, the lack of a 500 victory had to gnaw at him.

"I have not lost one ounce of sleep over not winning it, other than the disappointment of being within three feet of it in '07 (when Martin lost to Kevin Harvick)," he said. "I did lose a little bit of sleep over coming within three feet of it."

Martin reiterated his longtime belief that drivers don't get to choose which races they win; instead, he said, a racer should just appreciate any victory regardless of the venue.

And as for the championship? He came to terms with his lack of a Cup trophy when he left Roush Fenway Racing at the end of 2006 and embarked on a partial schedule with Ginn Racing the following year.

When he found early success at Ginn – nearly winning the 500 and leading the points for a stretch – he still stepped out of the car as planned.

"In '07, when we were leading the points after five races, everybody just like flipped out," he said. "(People said,) 'Don't you want to keep going?'

"I wanted to win the championship when I wanted to win it – when I was young. At that point, I'd already made peace with that. It was not on my agenda."

But in 2009, Martin again found himself in position to win his first title. He had resumed his career with a full-time slate of races for Hendrick Motorsports, but he said "they wanted to win a championship" – meaning it wasn't necessarily his own priority.

"I gave everything that I had (in 2009), but I didn't lose any sleep over it," he said. "It didn't bother me like it did when I was young."

Even when he was young, though – and he just turned 53, so "young" was a few decades ago – Martin said he didn't worry too much about losing close championship battles because he just knew he would win one someday.

But he didn't. And so when he looks at Carl Edwards' two runnerup points finishes, he is somewhat concerned.

"Look out, Carl," he said. "It looks like he's going to win it a lot of times, but..."

His voice trailed off and he considered Edwards' heartbreak from last season's championship Chase.

"At least I didn't tie!" Martin said. "For crying out loud. That's awful!"

So when Martin claims to not let any of the disappointments over not winning a Daytona 500 and championship bother him, he's mostly telling the truth.

But he admits there's "a certain amount of self-preservation" in his thoughts, a way to protect himself from letting it affect him.

"You can let (expectations) tear you apart and let things make you not as successful of a person and not as happy of a person," he said. "You have to manage yourself to some degree."

If Martin wins next Sunday's Daytona 500, many would view it as a happy ending to a legendary career. But if you ask Martin, he's been happy all along.

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