Could Mark Martin race another four seasons? He's not ruling it out.
Sunday, Martin will make his 1,052 NASCAR start (Cup, Nationwide and Trucks). That will put him 132 short of Richard Petty's record 1,184.
To catch and surpass the King, Martin would have to race about four more full seasons, meaning he'd have to compete until he was 56.
"That's quiet a lot of starts," Martin said. "I say it's possible, but I haven't even thought about it. I don't know. I can't answer that question."
Martin made his first NASCAR start on April 5, 1981, at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He started fifth and finished 27th. He collected two poles that season and earned a full-time ride with Bud Reeder the next. But early on in the 1983 season, he wrecked at Martinsville after a run-in with Dale Earnhardt. The next day he was fired.
He scrabbled together a few more starts that season, but wouldn't land another full-time ride until a NASCAR newcomer named Jack Roush hired him to drive in 1988. From there, Martin's career blossomed to the point where now he ranks third – with his Cup and Nationwide starts this weekend, he'll move past Michael Waltrip – in all-time NASCAR starts.
"The longevity is special, especially since I didn't get an early start," Martin said. "I did get an early start, but of course I had my major setback that cost me about eight years. So I really didn't get started in this thing until I was nearly 30."
Martin said he's not so much proud of the number of starts as he is the "level I managed to bring to it."
If there is a number he's after, it's to preserve his record as the all-time wins leader in the Nationwide Series. Martin has 48 career wins in NASCAR's second-tier series. Kyle Busch is second with 44.
"[Petty's record] wouldn't be one that I would go after as much as Kyle's coming after the all-time wins in Nationwide," Martin said. "That would be something that – a number like that would be something that would drive me more. But I'm doing all I can on that front right now."