At 54 years old, Mark Martin continues to persevere – and excel – in the Sprint Cup Series.
Martin isn’t a full-time racer this season on NASCAR’s top circuit, but thanks to a combination of his well-known commitment to fitness and the solid talent behind him at Michael Waltrip Racing, he’s staying quite competitive in this, his 31st season of Cup racing.
“I will say that I don’t know that my training – in my prime, I don’t know that my personal training made me a better race car driver,” Martin said after his Friday pole run for tomorrow’s Subway Fresh Fit 500k at Phoenix International Raceway. “But there’s no doubt in my mind that the longevity of my career is hugely dependent on that commitment.”
With 40 Cup victories on his resume, Martin’s hard work has paid off for him time and again. But he says he still has his occasional misgivings, which makes him grateful to have MWR in his corner.
“If I would’ve qualified 30th today, my lip would be out and I’d have the long face and whatnot,” said Martin of his No. 55 team. “[Winning the pole] is nice. I still revert back to – I have people that believe in me more than I do myself. They don’t doubt.
“…I truly believe that the reason I’m able to defy these odds right now are two huge reasons; [training] is one of them, and the other one is the people that work on my race car. It don’t matter how good you are – if you’ve got a slow car, you don’t look good and you don’t go fast. I have to have people that believe in me, and these guys believe in me.”
Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.
“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”
Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.
The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.
Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.
Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.
Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.
Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.
Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”