Sharing the Ride, Sharing the Thrill - Army Drivers
Mark Martin returns for his 26th season in Cup Series joining DEI Racing and the Army team as the co-driver of the Army Chevy.
Martin has compiled one of the most successful careers in NASCAR history. His 35 wins are the third most among active drivers. He is currently fourth in Nextel Cup's all-time standings and his name appears in the top 10 of several of NASCAR's all-time lists. He started 617 consecutive Cup races, dating back to Feb. 18, 1988, before deciding to run a partial season this year.
In addition, Martin's 47 victories in the Busch Series are a record, as are his 29 Busch poles. One of the fiercest and well rounded drivers in the sport, Martin became the first driver to win a Cup, Busch, Truck and IROC race at the same track with his win in the truck series at California Speedway.
Martin captured his record fifth Championship in the International Race of Champions series in 2005. The veteran used wins at Daytona and Richmond to bring his record total to 13 wins in the IROC series. Martin now has five championships in the series, including a record three straight from 1996-98.
Martin began his stock car racing career at the age of 15 on the local Arkansas dirt tracks. He won his first race in only his third start and the Arkansas State Championship in his first year of racing in 1974. He moved up to the V-8 division in 1976 and began racing on asphalt later that year.
His success continued, and by 1977 he began competing in the ASA series against drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison and Dick Trickle. He became the ASA Rookie of the Year in 1977, and them went on to win three consecutive championships from 1978-80.
Martin ran five NASCAR Cup races in 1981, which began laying the groundwork for his first full season in 1982. He had as impressive rookie year with eight top-10 finishes, although he never received payment from his sponsor. Unable to fund the team himself, Martin auctioned off everything in his shop in April 1983. He ran a limited Cup schedule for different owners that year before returning to the ASA series from 1984-86, where he claimed another championship in 1986.
Martin decided to take one more shot at NASCAR racing in 1987 when he drove a full-season Busch Grand National schedule for Bruce Lawmaster. It was Mark's victory at Dover that year that sparked the attention of Jack Roush. Roush was preparing to begin his own Cup team in 1988 and selected Martin to be his driver.
Martin has gone on to achieve everything just short of a Cup title, earning 35 Nextel Cup victories and finishing second in the point standings four times (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002), while consistently running at the front of the pack with one of the most successful race cars in NASCAR history.
Mark sees the 2008 season as a win-win situation for both himself and the Army team. Along with driving in 22 races, Mark's extended role with the Army team will be as a mentor to rookie Aric Almirola. "I not only get to drive, but I also get to teach and I love both." said Mark. "I welcome the opportunity to drive the U.S. Army car and represent our brave soldiers who are fighting the Global War on Terrorism."
Aric Almirola joined Dale Earnhardt Inc (DEI) in July 2007. The 23-year-old driver will co-pilot the U.S. Army Chevrolet with Mark Martin for the 2008 season.
Aric, a Tampa, Fla. native of Cuban descent, came to DEI from Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), where he was one of JGR's first prospects via the diversity program founded by Gibbs and the late Reggie White, an initiative that traces its roots back to May 2003. Aric was introduced to racing by his maternal grandfather — Sam Rodriguez, a Florida native. Aric's father, Ralph, came to the United States from Cuba at age four during the Freedom Flights of the mid-1960s. Aric's mother is Lynette.
When he signed with DEI, Aric had already garnered three Busch Series poles and a victory, as he co-drove with Denny Hamlin to win the June 23rd Busch race at The Milwaukee Mile.
"I am so excited about this opportunity," said Aric. "To share a ride with Mark Martin and have him as a driving coach is awesome. I want to thank everyone at DEI for believing in me and also to all of the people who have supported me along the way. It's going to be such an honor to represent the U.S. Army and all of our soldiers. Wearing the Army uniform will mean so much to me.”
Aric began his JGR career driving a late model in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series in 2004 at the .4-mile Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. After scoring two wins, six top-fives and 15 top-10s, Aric went on to compete in regional late model races in the Southeast. By the end of 2005, Aric was running a limited schedule in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, which led to a full-time Truck Series ride and a nine-race Busch Series schedule in 2006.