Mark Martin returning to Roush Fenway Racing in unique role

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Legendary NASCAR driver Mark Martin is returning to Roush Fenway Racing.

But don’t expect Martin, 55, to get back behind the wheel any time soon.

Rather, he’ll be helping those RFR drivers who will be behind the wheel themselves.

The organization announced Thursday morning that Martin will assume a newly-created role as driver development coach.

“The thing that always stood out about Mark was his unmatched drive to win,” team co-owner Jack Roush said in a media release. “Mark put us on the map and I am pleased to have him as a part of our team again.

“Mark is not only a good friend but he’s also a fierce competitor and I truly admire his passion and dedication to racing. I have no question that you will be able to see his influence on our young drivers. He understands what it takes to win and to be able to do that on a consistent basis and he’ll be a great asset to have back within our organization.”

Martin, who has not raced this season but also has not ever officially said he’s retired, will return to the team that he spent almost two decades with.

Martin was the first driver Roush hired when he formed Roush Racing – which eventually would become RFR – back in 1988.

Martin earned 82 wins under the Roush banner: 35 in Sprint Cup and 47 in Nationwide, as well as four runner-up finishes in the yearly Cup championship.

“I’m excited to return to Roush Fenway Racing,” Martin said. “It feels like I’m going home to where I belong.

“I was fortunate to help build this team from the beginning and it’s very humbling to be a part of Jack’s team again. When Jack first hired me in 1988 we didn’t talk about salary or benefits or perks, we talked about testing, tires and putting the right personnel into place to win on the track. That commitment is what stood out to me then and it’s still what stands out to me today.”

Martin is expected to work with RFR’s younger drivers, including 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne, two-time Nationwide Series champ Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and rookies Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed. He’ll also help, if needed, veteran Greg Biffle.

“Roush Fenway has an abundance of young, talented drivers and I’m looking forward to working with each of them going forward,” Martin said. “I am very proud of what Jack and I were able to accomplish together and I am excited to expand on those accomplishments.

“I understand what it takes to succeed in this business and appreciate the hard work, dedication and focus required to compete at the highest level week in and week out. We have a great crop of young drivers. … It will be a key part of my job to help them develop their skills behind the wheel and get the most of their exceptional ability.”

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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.