Mark Martin compiled 96 victories across NASCAR's three national series and is one of the best drivers to have never won a championship.
He guided Kyle Busch to a fifth-place finish in NASCAR's championship battle in 2007, and Mark Martin to a runner-up result just two years later. But nothing can compare to this season, this Chase and, especially, this race. The No. 24 team's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, will be in the spotlight this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway , every bit as much as Jeff Gordon , his successful driver. Gordon, winner of more races than any active driver -- 93 total wins -- and No. 3 on NASCAR's career wins list, will wrap up a 23-year career when he hits the track for Sunday's season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Miami. A four-time winner of the series' title, Gordon, 44, seeks to go out on top, champion of a sport that he helped transform. And Gustafson, overseer of Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet since 2005, will be there by his side. Standing between the pair and possibly one of the biggest moments the sport has ever seen? Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , Busch and Martin Truex Jr ., an underdog who has continued to keep his title hopes alive with as much grit and determination as speed on the race track. The group makes up this year's Championship 4, and the highest finishing driver of the quartet on Sunday will earn the coveted 2015 Sprint Cup title. Gustafson has yet to be distracted by the spotlight as Gordon's racing career nears the end, and he expects that will be the case this weekend, although he knows it won't be easy. "I've tried not to focus on that all season even though it's difficult to do at times," Gustafson said last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway . "You just look at the race and you execute it and you do what you have to do to put ourselves in the best position to win. "Obviously, it's a huge deal. It's an amazing opportunity, but to me it's about the opportunity to win Homestead and the championship. How big that is or isn't in anybody else's eyes really doesn't influence me. It's different, but it really isn't different in my eyes from something I've worked for my whole life. You prepare your whole life for this and you have to embrace that and do the best you can." Gordon is the fourth driver Gustafson has worked for since moving into the crew chief role at Hendrick Motorsports in 2005. The Ormond Beach, Florida, native worked his way up from the chassis shop to shock specialist to lead engineer to crew chief in a span of seven years. Paired with Busch from '05-07, the team won four times; in '08 he called the shots for Casey Mears , and in '09 the veteran Mark Martin came on board and won five times. Gustafson also served briefly as an interim crew chief for driver Terry Labonte . Working with each driver brought new opportunities and a wealth of information. It would have been impossible not to learn as he worked with such a diverse group of talented drivers. "Absolutely. I'm fortunate to have those opportunities," Gustafson said. "You learn a lot from those guys. The vast experience that Terry had and what he's been through. And Kyle, you go right to the polar opposite -- has all the talent in the world, (at the time had) very little experience and he has to kind of navigate this sport. "He had to start tough for whatever reason. To work through those things with him and work with him as he matured and see the mistakes he made and go through the mistakes with him and make a lot of mistakes myself, that was very interesting and very fun and great experience. Had Casey Mears for a year, which was tough and humbling. Didn't seem to be able to do much right. That was a very trying time. I learned a lot about myself and how to work through difficult times. "And the success we had with Mark and the way he approached racing. That's it. He is so racing, racing, racing, racing, racing. Maybe lift weights in there somewhere. But Mark was a huge supporter of mine, which I've always appreciated. He wanted to see me be the best I could be. He was good about pointing out things and saying, 'Hey, look at this, look at that.' Even after he no longer drove, he's that kind of person. He likes to help other people. That was fun. He knows a ton and how he handles himself, absolutely learned a ton from that." Gustafson, who will continue as the No. 24 crew chief next year when Chase Elliott takes the ride, honed his talents and grew as a crew chief long before he and Gordon were united; Gordon's status as a sure-fire future Hall of Fame member, already in place, won three of his four championships with Ray Evernham as crew chief while the fourth came with Robbie Loomis atop the pit box. Some crew chiefs are great motivators while the strength of others might be more engineering based. Gustafson has worked hard to mesh the two. His car knowledge and understanding of aerodynamics allows him to converse easily with team engineers as well as fabricators and others who have their hands on the cars that roll off the line and wind up carrying the familiar No. 24 paint scheme. "He is just on their level and connects with them," Gordon said. "I think it earns a lot of respect, certainly, from my standpoint it is why I wanted to work with him so bad and why I've enjoyed working with him so much. It's because he is just so good with the cars. "He has definitely had to work and hone his skills on how to be that confident, powerful leader. He has become extremely good at it, but I do think that's probably something that was not as natural to him as the engineering. "He has got a tremendous work ethics and drive. That to me is what makes a great crew chief. When I think back to me and Ray (Evernham) or I look at other crew chiefs at Hendrick and in the garage, the ones that are just willing to sacrifice everything and put that kind of effort into it are the ones that are successful. That is what Alan does." When Gordon won at Martinsville to secure a spot in this weekend's final, the focus turned to the 1.5-mile Miami track. Efforts at Texas and Phoenix, where he finished ninth and sixth, respectively, may have suffered slightly, Gustafson admitted. "You are in a little bit of this, awkward is not the right word, you're kind of in this limbo kind of space," Gustafson said. "You don't want to run bad, you don't want to struggle, you don't want any bad momentum, you want to keep positive momentum and you're focused on Homestead. Other guys aren't, they're focused on Texas and (Phoenix). "It's a little different, first time I've been in this position. … It's a little bit of an unknown. I'm very curious to have gone through this, then go to Homestead and look back and say 'Eh, this (worked), maybe that (didn't), maybe this, you know, critique how we handle things because it is unprecedented now."
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Not everyone can say they have a legit pig in a blanket #Porkchop pic.twitter.com/9ZmYv6im0v — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) November 12, 2015 2. Go kart stuck in high + whiskey throttle = mommy her pants!!!!!!!! — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) November 10, 2015 3. Restoration of original Metrolina Speedway sign completed. @LostSpeedways pic.twitter.com/jguNuiPMTu — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 12, 2015 4. Drake is soft like tissue. https://t.co/ZKP5elXEXZ — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 9, 2015 5. I got it bad... 2 secs from literally leaving this house w/ everything in it. The sun was playing tricks on me pic.twitter.com/2pKclDXIrM — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) November 12, 2015 6. Pure beauty happy race day! pic.twitter.com/k08UQEYlvU — Paige (@epaigewhite) November 8, 2015 7. Can anyone tell me how to get to @DISupdates My Dad keeps saying practice, practice, practice @CateEvernham pic.twitter.com/wBY9cJMcAU — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 10, 2015 8. I don't know what a #BAE is but they seem to be gaining momentum. They now have a system and planes. Look out. pic.twitter.com/gKkOGsHzw8 — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 8, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: He's so happy https://t.co/dBg5dLnNXN — Matt Harrington (@Matt2Harrington) November 11, 2015
Veteran driver rejoined team in 2014 as driver development coach Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Mark Martin , a 35-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winner with Roush Fenway Racing (then Roush Racing), said Friday via Twitter that he is no longer with RFR. No. RT @timewarpnut : @markmartin @green31v @JaredLanders777 Mark , are you still going to be working with Rousch drivers this year? — Mark Martin (@markmartin) February 6, 2015 Martin had rejoined the organization this past July, signing on as a driver development coach to work with young drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Trevor Bayne, who will begin his first full-time Cup season this year. At the time, Martin said, "I'm excited to return to Roush Fenway Racing, as 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." Martin , 56, had previously been in a consulting role with Stewart-Haas Racing, the last team he drove for in the Sprint Cup Series. On Saturday, Martin responded to a question on Twitter with the following reason for not wanting to work with Roush anymore. I didn't want to go to the races. I've done enough of that for now. Except for dirt track. RT @dustincary : @markmartin what happen at Roush? — Mark Martin (@markmartin) February 7, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. I like a lil #sneakattack #vacation #friendsgiving pic.twitter.com/41HQcmqrgT — Amy Reimann (@Amy_Reimann) November 24, 2015 2. After the race little dude says "I believed that we would win... And I believe we'll get a baby sister annnnnd a brother too!!!" — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) November 23, 2015 3. Happy Thanksgiving! Have a great day with family and friends. Tanner and I checking out the property #thankful pic.twitter.com/NNxIm1ub5j — Kasey Kahne (@kaseykahne) November 26, 2015 4. Note to self: You're not 21, please use better judgement in the future. — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) November 23, 2015 5. #Cannonball pic.twitter.com/mHn78ZgAiX — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 23, 2015 6. Two amazing blessings right here, both we had to fight hard for but when the time was right God gave them to us pic.twitter.com/lIZTywim0e — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) November 23, 2015 7. Hey @JimmieJohnson I hear ya #24ever pic.twitter.com/3591OlIqBm — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) November 23, 2015 8. An amazing experience seeing @JeffGordonWeb 's final @NASCAR race. Congratulations to you, Jeff, on an amazing career pic.twitter.com/NPuNavzRRX — Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) November 23, 2015 FAN TWEET OF THE WEEK: Mom didn't want me to know about the @NASCAR tickets ahead of time, but she wanted me to pick out my own seats at @CLTMotorSpdwy — Kelli Scoggins (@kelliscoggins) November 27, 2015
Leader Mark Martin gets collected in a scary crash on pit road after trying to avoid a crash on the track.
Miss Coors Light congratulates Mark Martin on his first pole of the 2013 NSCS season.
Mark Martin on his great finish at Richmond and praises his MWR teammates.
Mark Martin credits his crew chief for a great car at Dover and talks about how much fun he has driving for MWR.
Mark Martin explains why speeding on pitroad is not worth it for him, plus he comments on his battle for the win with Joey Logano.