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Mark Martin is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career in 2009, having won four races and four poles. He's currently 10th in the Sprint Cup standings, well in position to qualify for The Chase for team owner Rick Hendrick.

His prospects were not always so rosy. Here, Martin is shown trying to hold off Ricky Rudd (3) and Benny Parsons (28) in 1982, his first full season on NASCAR's premier stage. His sponsorship from Apache Stove was all of $50,000 -- for the entire 30-race campaign. Despite season best fifth-place finishes at Dover and Riverside, Martin came up short in his bid for the Rookie of the Year title, which went to Geoff Bodine.

"Just nothing turned out," Martin told writer Bob Zeller in Mark Martin: Driven To Race (Bull Publishing 1997). "We got lapped in every race. I ran the whole season begging and borrowing. It killed me. It broke me financially and it destroyed me. We were just swallowed up."

Things got even worse the next year, when he was fired after making just seven starts for maverick owner J.D. Stacy. Martin made spot starts the rest of the season for D.K. Ulrich Emanuel Zervakis and Larry McClure, and then returned to his midwestern racing roots on the ASA circuit throughout the mid-1980s.

He agreed to drive for a new Winston Cup team being formed by Jack Roush, beginning in 1988. The rest is NASCAR history.

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