Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s guest Mark Martin regrets rejecting the chance that would’ve led to a Daytona 500 win

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Mark Martin (R) told Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L) about his regret of declining to ride the #28 car (Image: Getty and Sportscasting)
Mark Martin (R) told Dale Earnhardt Jr. (L) about his regret of declining to ride the #28 car (Image: Getty and Sportscasting)

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s latest invitee Mark Martin has elaborated on a life-changing offer he refused during his racing career. Had the legendary driver said yes to the proposal, he would've had a Daytona 500 victory in his arsenal.

Mark Martin is a five-time IROC champion and a four-time ASA champion. Though he had a shaky beginning in NASCAR, jumping from one team to another, the Arkansas native dominated the sport during his prime at Roush Racing.

Despite having no Cup Series championship, Martin settled for the runner-up place four times. Moreover, he has 40 Cup Series wins, 49 Xfinity wins, and 7 Truck Series wins, which has placed him among the stock car greats. On one occasion, the legendary driver was approached by the master engine builder Waddell Wilson with an attractive offer for the 1983 season.

At that time, Wilson looked after the iconic #28 car, which has run in 1037 races, collected 76 wins, 299 top-5s, and 438 top-10s to date. Moreover, the number was donned by several notable drivers like Davey Allison, Fred Lorenzen, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Ernie Irvan, and many more.

The engine builder asked Mark Martin if he wished to tame the #28 car. However, the latter declined. Despite unwavering efforts, Martin couldn't bag the highly-coveted Daytona 500 win but his rejected car sealed the 1983 Daytona 500 triumph with Cale Yarborough behind the wheel.

During a discussion with Dale Earnhardt Jr., the veteran reminisced on the unwanted feat and revealed what happened during the moment when he rejected the offer.

"I go over and answer the phone and he said, 'Mark, this is Wadell Wilson. I was wondering if you'd be interested in driving the 28 car?' I didn't even think, I said, 'No Waddell, I think I'd rather do my own deal.' That was the end of it," Martin told Dale Earnhardt Jr. via Dirty Mo Media on X.

The 65-year-old then highlighted what he "should've done" instead.

"Waddell, I got some guys, that work for me, they'd have to come, I got this one car, I'd have to bring that car. If you would let me do the chassis setups and all that I'll come and talk to you," the IROC champ added.
"That's what I should've done and see if he would do it. Fast forward to Daytona, 28 sits on the pole," Martin regretted.

"I was so full of myself"- Mark Martin told Dale Earnhardt Jr. how his floated ego cost him the Daytona 500 win

During the conversation with Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin outlined how his exaggerated sense of self-worth proved very expensive for his entire racing career. The 65-year-old stepped foot in NASCAR in 1981 and competed in only five races in his debut part-time year. He bagged two poles and claimed a podium finish in P3 at the Martinsville Speedway.

As a result, he got promoted to full-time Cup Series racing in 1982. However, a slew of DNFs and consistency struggles shattered his prospects with Bud Reeder and the duo parted ways. It was during those days that Wilson asked Martin's approval to field the #28 car.

Getting a chance to drive the legendary car while just being a rookie amazed Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he asked Martin the reason behind declining the offer.

"You turned down an opportunity to drive for Reeder in the #28 car? Early on, this early on they came to you and said, 'Hey man, we see something [in Mark Martin] and you turned it down,'" Junior asked via Dirty Mo Media on YouTube. (48.08)
"There’s a lot of things that could have happened that didn’t. I was so full of myself," Martin replied.
"I thought I could beat these guys [his rivals]. In the third race, I sat on the pole, and in the fourth race, I run seventh, sat on the pole again, and run seventh and then in the fifth race, I led 40 laps of the race and run third. I thought I had these guys," the 65-year-old added. (50.26)

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Had Mark Martin accepted the offer, he would've joined the likes of Fireball Roberts, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and several other drivers.

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