When Mark Martin climbed out of Tony Stewart’s race car after last year’s season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was to be a quick transition.
Stewart was due back for the 2014 season and Martin was slated to semi-retire from racing and to become a driving coach for Danica Patrick.
We’re finally learning why the expected move never materialized, courtesy of a story by NASCAR Illustrated’s Kris Johnson.
The reason is simple: Martin, whose last career NASCAR race was at Homestead last autumn, has battled a back injury for much of this year that kept him from interacting with Patrick like he hoped to do.
“He was supposed to be my driver coach this year and he wasn’t,” Patrick told Johnson. “He was supposed to do it and then he got hurt, and I was like, ‘Is Mark gonna come to the track?’
“… His back hurt. I feel bad for him, obviously racing and working out is everything to him and then to be hurt and not be able to do … to retire and not be able to do the other, I know it’s been a tough 2014 for him.”
It’s unclear where or when Martin suffered the back injury. He’s noted for having a grueling physical fitness regimen.
“I really like Mark and I wish it would have worked out but it was circumstantial,” Patrick said. “But he was up for the job (of coaching her).”
Martin and Patrick had a plan of attack, but the back injury prevented implementation.
“Our sort of motivation and mission together was a lot less about turn in earlier or brake harder or deeper, it was more about the communication side of things, just how to translate the information from me to the crew chief in a beneficial way, in a productive way,” Patrick told Johnson. “And then kind of be the eyes and ears around a little bit and maybe (see) his side of things of what needs to be worked on to make things go better.”
Martin was recently introduced as a driver development coach for Roush Fenway racing, a role that is due to begin next season, presumably after he’s fully healed from his back issue.
He’ll work primarily with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne on the Sprint Cup circuit, as well as several Nationwide Series drivers in the RFR camp.
“I think he has a good understanding that every driver is a little different and you can’t just go tell him what to do,” Patrick said. “We had a good plan. Just didn’t see it through the way that I thought, but Mark is great guy and I know he would have done a good job.”
Follow me @JerryBonkowski