CORNELIUS, N.C. — No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Mark Martin enjoyed a memorable Sunday. Not only did the 54-year-old Martin finish third in his 29th Daytona 500, but the Michael Waltrip Racing driver spent time with some of his favorite musicians.
Martin met rapper TI Sunday morning in the motorhome lot and that afternoon entertained 50-cent on the No. 55 before accompanying 50-cent to driver introductions. The musician spent much of the race on top of the Aaron’s pit box snapping pictures of the crew members and listening in on the team radio communications. Martin’s Twitter handle @55markmartin jumped 3,000 followers after 50-cent tweeted a picture and referred to Martin’s as the “OG” (Original Gangster) of the Daytona 500.
Martin wasn’t the only No. 55 team member enjoying the sport’s star power on Sunday. Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens gave the pre-race motivational speech to the pit crew members at Daytona.
SUNDAY: “Oh my gosh that was exciting. TI and 50-cent are some of my favorites. That was cool to get to meet them and talk with them. 50 spent a lot of time with us. He came into our hauler and the guys had his music playing. He asked them their names and what they did. He took as many pictures as we took of him. After the race my Twitter followers jumped 3,000. I said 50 must have done something. It was really good that he took the time to come check out NASCAR.”
DAYTONA 500: “First of all, I feel extremely grateful for the opportunity. There are a number of drivers that didn’t get to have a shot at the Daytona 500, and I was at least close enough to have an outside shot. So I feel extremely lucky for that opportunity. It was an awesome car. There were a lot of things going on there at the end. We had a chance for the big trophy. I had a wonderful car and can’t thank the guys at MWR enough.”
PHOENIX: “I think when we get in these cars at Phoenix they are going to stick like glue. These new Gen-6 cars are going to break a lot of track records in 2013 and I think that could start as soon as Friday in Phoenix. We were fortunate enough to win the pole here last year. I think we are going to need to go a heck of a lot faster this year to repeat.”
BRIAN DHEEL NO. 55 GAS MAN: “Ray Lewis was pretty cool. He told us about making this moment ours. To go out do your best and let it go when it is all over. It shows you how important the Daytona 500 and NASCAR is to everyone. All of our races are big to us but it is cool to know it is big to other people as well. We almost did it. If we had won, we’d probably play that recording each week.”
• PRIMARY/BACKUP CHASSIS: 714/732
• No. 55 DRIVERS: Martin will drive the No. 55 in 24 races, Brian Vickers in nine races and Michael Waltrip in three races.
• PHOENIX: In 32 Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix, Martin owns two victories and 12 top-five finishes. He’s led 836 laps and won two poles including last year’s pole at this race.
• WINS: Martin owns 40 Sprint Cup, 49 Nationwide and seven Camping World Truck Series victories. He’s led 12,781 laps in Sprint Cup competition. Martin has started 854 Sprint Cup races, 236 Nationwide races and 25 truck events. He also owns 13 IROC wins in 47 starts.
• INSIDER PROGRAM: Michael Waltrip Racing launched its Insider Program last week that offers all race fans sponsor discounts, specials on merchandise, exclusive pictures and video content plus fan giveaways throughout the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Fans can access the MWR Insider Program through the CardStar application available on most smartphones. MWR will work on behalf of the fans to expand the offerings beyond just its current sponsor line-up, aggregating industry-wide deals and discounts. Fans can text MWR to 42828 get card for FREE. Offers include 20% off Subway Fresh Fit 500 tickets, free headset with rental of a FanVision unit ($19.99 value) and 25% off Toyota Racing merchandise at ToyotaRacing.com.
NAME: Mark Martin
HOMETOWN: Batesville, AR
RESIDENCE: Daytona Beach, FL