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You don't have to be a young stud

It's good to know that there are some sports where the old geezers can wipe up the floor with the young studs now and then. Auto racing is one of those...and NASCAR's Mark Martin is one of the geezers.

Drivers tell me that reflexes and teenager courage may count with the young guys...but the old guys have experience, horse sense and the ability to endure going for them. Some stock-car drivers compete well into their 50s and 60s.

A native of Batesville, Arkansas, Martin is pushing 50, and it's his 26th season in the Cup Series. He drives the 8 car for the U.S. Army Team, and looks the part with a silvery buzz cut and a hard, handsome, Clint Eastwood drill-sergeant look. Earlier this season he made his 700th career start, has earned 35 victories and 41 poles, and was recently inducted into the Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.

In the Subway Fresh Fit 500 this last weekend in Phoenix, Martin was leading in the final laps, and came heartbreakingly close to his 36th victory, only to be done in by what might have been miscalculation on fuel by his pit crew. Several cars at the front of the pack were into a drama of who had enough fuel to finish without going in. Though Martin was sure his canny driving tricks had saved enough fuel to hold onto his lead and finish without pitting, he respected his crew chief's insistence that he was a couple of gallons short and needed to come in for fuel. Jimmie Johnson gambled on staying out, and won.

Martin finished fifth. But he climbed out of the Army car looking fresh as a daisy, whereas some of the younger guys looked pretty wilted by the end of the race. And Martin stood up for his crew chief's decision, refusing to criticize it publicly, like the old soldier he is. -- Patricia Nell Warren