Published Mar/Apr 2006

Mark Martin at the wheel and standing beside his No. 6 Ford, which AAA is sponsoring during this NASCAR Nextel Cup racing season.

Mark Martin is racing his final season on behalf of AAA and helping
to champion a campaign that focuses on teen driver safety.
By AAA National

His steely eyes focus on the track ahead. Inches separate him from his competitor. Back and forth they jockey, each gaining and losing precious inches as they head toward the checkered flag.

Mark Martin has played out this scene hundreds of times throughout the course of his 18 years with car owner Jack Roush. Many times, he surges ahead to take the checkered flag. Sometimes, inches separate him from victory.

The 47-year-old is one of the best drivers to ever put the pedal to the metal in NASCAR’s Nextel series, having earned 35 victories, 356 top-10 finishes, 224 top fives and 41 pole positions for being the fastest qualifier. Yet, his sport’s biggest prize–the Nextel Cup–has continued to slip through his fingers. He has finished second a frustrating four times in his bid for the Cup.

Martin isn’t giving up on the idea yet. Although planning to retire from the Nextel series after the 2005 season, he extended his “Salute to You” tour for one last year to drive the No. 6 Ford Fusion, sponsored by AAA. It is a partnership that AAA hopes will yield victories on the track, as well as an increased focus on the issue of teen driver safety.

AAA rejoins racing

After a 50-year hiatus, AAA has returned to motorsports by partnering with Roush Racing to serve as the primary sponsor of the #6 racecar during the next three seasons, 2006–2008. In 2007, driver Todd Kluever will take over the reins from Martin.

Before exiting motorsports in the 1950s to concentrate on serving members, AAA was a major force in the development of auto racing. During the first half of the 20th century, AAA organized and sanctioned many races. Initially, most races were long-distance “reliability runs” to test how reliable the cars were. The winners were not the fastest cars but those that actually finished the race without breaking down too often.

Because of that long racing tradition and its dedication to all things concerning automobiles, AAA decided to become a sponsor with Roush Racing. In addition to increasing awareness of AAA among race fans, the partnership will become a complement to the association’s traffic safety heritage.

AAA will work with Martin and Roush Racing to develop traffic and driver safety messages for the motoring public, especially teenagers. In a series of public service announcements, Martin will emphasize the importance of parents setting a good example for children when it comes to safe driving.

The announcements, which introduce the phrase, “There’s no better role model on the road than you,” are particularly well-suited for Martin who has five children.

“As a strong advocate for highway safety and the father of a 13-year-old son who will be seeking his driver’s license in a few short years, Mark has made it clear he has a keen interest in being involved in our teen driver initiative,” said Robert Darbelnet, AAA President.

AAA has led the fight to enact graduated drivers’ licensing laws in all 50 states and the District of Columbia over the past eight years. As a result, teens graduate through various stages of licensure and are given additional driving privileges as their on-the-road experience expands.

Even though motorsports are not without their risks, Darbelnet said many advances in safety that were developed for the racetrack have ultimately saved lives both on the track and off. Some examples of these contributions to traffic safety include rearview mirrors, traction and stability control systems, hydraulic brakes, crumple zones, seatbelts and vehicle air bags.

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