Clean food fuels this NASCAR driver
February 18th, 2011
06:30 PM ET
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Who needs Mobil 1? There’s enough hamburger, bratwurst, and pork chop grease around the infield garages at Daytona International Speedway to lube every pushrod, crankshaft and exhaust valve in the joint.

It may not be 200 mph, but the speed at which pit crews, officials, and media types race around the garage area can be dizzying. There’s little time to lounge and enjoy the warm Florida sunshine, let alone a proper meal. What precious minutes crew members may have between adjustments and repairs are spent refueling themselves. It doesn’t take a keen eye to see there’s plenty of fuel around - and not the Sunoco kind.

The smell of high octane exhaust is nearly overpowered by the scent of searing meat emanating from grills up and down the garage area. Almost all of the racing teams have food catered for their hungry tire changers, engine techs and car chiefs.

If the marketing folks of Pepto Bismol or Tums want to increase their presence in auto racing, I’d suggest starting in the garage area. Everything else in NASCAR has a sponsor - why not the infield? I can hear it now: “Jimmie Johnson pulls the #48 Lowe’s Chevy Impala into his Pepto Bismol pit stall for four fresh Goodyear tires and a full tank of Sunoco racing fuel.”

But one driver you won’t find strolling around the garage with a hot dog in hand is Mark Martin, driver of the #5 Hendrick Chevy. In fact, if it weren’t for his nuclear neon green fire suit, you might not realize that the 5’6”,125-pound veteran was there.

“It’s not any different here than it is anywhere. It’s just awful what we eat, and we’re starting to learn and find out that it’s coming around,” says Martin.

A 40-time race winner on NASCAR’s elite level, Martin discovered many years before his peers that eating healthy would make him a better competitor behind the wheel. Back in 1988, the Batesville, Arkansas native decided that it was time to drop the cheeseburgers and French fries for fresh fish and steamed veggies.

“When my career got to a certain level where I didn’t have to personally be at the shop and work on the cars myself all the time, it was time to shift some of that energy toward trying to make myself better, rather than trying to make my cars better,” explains Martin.

Martin is candid that the transformation didn’t happen overnight. He started eating more chicken, potatoes, and broccoli, but was still drinking alcohol and having salads with ranch dressing. Now, his outlook has changed: “Ranch dressing? You might as well be eating pizza or cheeseburgers. It’s awful ... I gave up mayonnaise for mustard. I didn’t like mustard ... but I gave it up.”

Now, at a spry 52 years old, Martin is extremely particular, almost obsessive, about what he puts into his small but very fit frame. With a few swipes and taps on his smartphone, Martin can immediately tell you what he’s eaten that day and what he still needs to eat to meet his nutritional goals.

"On a certain day I might look and say oh I’m short on protein today, I need a shake. Or I’m high on carbs today, I got to have a shake with no carbs. On another day, I got to have some fruit to get that up," says Martin. "I could be doing something else with my time, you know. This is what I do. Between the racing and the training, I’m not gonna bust my butt in the gym and not get 100% out of it."

Dave Sherlock, Martin’s motor home driver, doubles as his personal cook. Says Sherlock, "He won’t eat a hot dog. It’s basically ... it's just the fish. I mean, he eats a lot of fish."

"Fish and just straight up chicken. I don’t put anything on it. Orange roughy, zucchini, squash, and then a sweet potato. And if I don’t cook the zucchini or squash, it’ll be asparagus or broccoli, but he’s still eating the fish."

Pepper. Lemon juice. A smidge of organic non-stick spray. Sherlock quickly learned that these are the only additions Martin allows to his food.

“It just took a little getting used to doing. I make sure I won’t put anything out here [at the grill] that I would use on my food, ‘cause I’ll get the tendency to grab it and [start] pouring it on. You know it’s for Mark, so you know not to put anything on it,” says Sherlock.

For his part, Martin – who says he eats five or six meals a day, and who is known to keep a protein bar in the driver’s side door of his race car, just in case a race goes long – explains, “I just like food. I like food. I don’t need to goob a bunch of junk on it to make it edible. It’s good to me because it’s food.”

“I can’t ever get very far from food. I’m not going to get caught in a five-hour stretch with nothing to eat. I can’t handle that.”

And sure enough, as we concluded our interview, Martin immediately hopped off the motor home couch, went to the fridge, and pulled out an apple.

“I love food. I love it.”

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Filed under: Eating Habits • Health News • News

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. mfred

    Three topics guaranteed to put hardcore red meat eaters on edge....politics, gun control, and vegetarians.
    Technically speaking though Martin isn't a true vegetarian, but his diet as it stands is enough to make a few out there squirm.

    February 19, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Richard Simmons

      And people like me. Hell-OOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

      *jazz hands*

      February 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm |

    Mark will be the gratest Driver to never win the Cup!!!!!! They forgot to mentioned that he was an acholic at one point in his life,so its good hes addicted to fitness and health.THis might be his last season in NASCAR,so good for him.Watch the Daytona 500 this sunday,and be in aw that the coolness of the sport

    February 19, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      While driving a NASCAR race may not be a walk in the park, I also don't put it up there with "health" (maybe fitness). Those races are like being stuck in a 160 MPH traffic jam. I love the smell of carbon monoxide on Sundays.

      February 21, 2011 at 12:28 pm |
  3. Emmaleah

    I'm not the only queer weirdo liberal chick fine arts major who watches NASCAR, I know that much. It's an interesting sport and the culture around it is totally foreign to me... so, like a fine arts libtard I'm driven to engage and deconstruct it and learn to appreciate it in the process. Also, shiny things go really fast and are loud, which is awesome.

    What makes it "red-neck" is the snobbery of everyone else who refuses to enjoy it because it's a sport that's got practical real-world application and a working-class fanbase. If you think the sport is red-neck, and you take that as a negative, it's your own fault for not engaging with it. That's like women refusing to play football and then complaining that it's an inherently sexist sport. (I played football in highschool, thank you, and it's not.) Sheesh.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:56 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      No one reads what others actually write. I didn't state it was a redneck sport. I said I would enjoy NASCAR (the league) more if there were less rednecks in it. If they changed announcers, say to someone who doesn't hoot and holler and say things like "dag-nab-it", I may be able to stand to listen to it for more than 10 minutes per serving.

      And let's put 40 cars on Main street and give them a route to take, a la Need for Speed or Fast and the Furious. THAT'S racing. NASCAR is a controlled environment. Boring.

      February 21, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
      • RichardHead@Jdizz

        Still got the Pink Dodge Neon? I gotta '65 Chevy BelAir with a 6 cylinder and we can Demolition Derby in your hometown. Just say when! :)

        February 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        Yep. Put a bra on it, even. Like the chicks ion high school with their Chevy Berettas. God, that was lame.

        February 21, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
      • RichardHead@Jdizz

        I'm gonna need a Bigger Bra,Brah!

        February 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  4. UK

    Isn't it ironic that a group who strongly supports the far right's point of view advertises their environmental concerns by using clean fuels. Too bad their cohorts are in the process of cutting funding for the Envoronimental Protection Agency. The EPA would insure all Americans are being protected from environrmrntal hazards. This seems like an inconsistancy to me. If you want to promote clean fuel and environmental concerns why reduce the effectiveness of the group thats primary goal is to insure environmental protection for all Americans.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
  5. GozieBoy

    Like NASCAR itself, this article was incredibly boring. We need more stories about those 'good ol boys' in NASCAR who drive while registering a 0.32 blood alcohol level. Now THAT might be interesting to watch on the oval.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:29 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants

      That would be my new favorite sport.

      February 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm |
  6. GozieBoy

    Which is more insane, driving endlessly in circles, or sitting and watching someone drive endlessly in circles over and over and over and over... I guess the latter, since they actually PAY to endure this agony.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  7. Mesfin

    I would like to nominate Mr Martin as the sportman of the year 2011 and beyond. What a smart and eco-friendly citizen and if only he can lecture his competitors about such and I might add if he can resort to biofuel for race car as well our mother earth would thank him a bunch.

    February 19, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  8. Christopher Warden

    Enlightened eating! So GREAT (and too rare!) to see and hopefully the truth will continue to spread.

    February 19, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  9. Chad

    I am a NASCAR fan and specifically a fan of Mark Martin. The fact that he takes such good care of himself on a food level just increases my admiration of the guy who happens to be one of the few true class acts in NASCAR anyway.
    I agree his diet is a little austere, even amongst many who eat rather healthy, but it is a good diet and he will live longer and remain active longer than most I think.

    I have a diet that is similar, all fresh foods, only mine may taste a bit better than Marks. I use alot of fresh herbs and spices on my foods rather than leaving them plain as Mark Martin does. I know they are fresh, organic and healthy because I grow them all myself along with the vast majority of my vegetables as well as a large portion of what meats I eat (I raise rabbits, chickens and other game birds). This lifestyle is not exactly easy to live but at 43 years old I am in better physical shape than most 20 year old men and can out perform them at work or play on just about any given day.

    Kudos to Mark Martin for giving NASCAR fans the best of himself that he is able to provide. Kudos to Mark Martin for being a true role model. Kudos to eveyone that reads such an article and decides to make a difference in thier own lives by taking the simple step of eating healthy, it pays off to litterally everyone that one simple act.

    February 19, 2011 at 9:34 am |
    • not your typical NASCAR FAN

      well said

      February 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  10. guy

    Well done there is a person who is and will have a good quality of life. and not add more costs to our healthcare system. Now if we all followed his lead we'd cut our healthcare costs down and enjoy a 'fit' active life. And not make big profit for the junk food empires.

    February 19, 2011 at 8:38 am |
  11. Benedict Giger

    Fish & Chicken??? Yes, those get produced very humanely and healthy, no antibiotics, not at all. And then he makes it into an obsession with an iPad app, sounds outstandingly healthy. Does he get up at night when his iPad tells him he misses a few carbs?
    I was expecting something even more risible, e.g. that the car is powered by biofuels, so this article qualifies only as intermediately ridiculous/absurd.

    February 19, 2011 at 8:19 am |
    • Don Juan

      You're ridiculous. If you would've read the title of the article "...fuels this NASCAR driver". I have always liked Mark Martin, and I give him a lot of respect. They say next to Carl Edwards he is the best fit driver out there. He has/still puts in his work.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
    • not your typical NASCAR FAN

      OMG, can you eat your tofu and leave the rest of us alone.

      The man has an unbelievable exercise routine ... and he could squash your vegan head with his pinkie.

      February 27, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  12. Greg

    Outstanding. There is a man who knows what he needs to be healthy and successful. He does what it takes to get it done to fuel his body well. An excellent role model. (And a damn find racer).

    February 19, 2011 at 6:52 am |
  13. slupdawg

    I'd have rather died at 30 than eat a diet as austere as all that.

    February 19, 2011 at 3:32 am |
  14. daddymomma

    i think we should bring slavery back. blacks and women. all slaves?

    February 19, 2011 at 1:48 am |
    • We never forget you

      Ever see the movie "SAW"

      There is riddle for every person like you.

      Be nice...


      February 19, 2011 at 1:57 am |
    • RowdyFan

      I read the article three times just to give you the benefit of the doubt. But, nope, I did not read anything in the article where they were attacking black people and women. Had this article been racist in ANY way I would be backing your comment. Next time you want to fight a battle go to where the war is. I'm a female Native American and TRUST ME, I've suffered PLENTY of racist BS in my life. DAILY I'm discriminated against by white people because they thing I'm Mexican, by black people because I"m not black, AND by my own race because I'm half white. When you unnecessarily make accusations you are doing your part to keep racism alive by being a breeding groud for hate. HHHHhhmmmmmmm. How about getting that chip off your soulder and stop letting your race or gender hold you back. It's very rewarding, you should try it.

      February 19, 2011 at 7:05 am |
    • Chad


      Thats all I have to say about a comment like that serious or sarcastic.

      Sometimes I really wonder about our gene pool.

      February 19, 2011 at 9:37 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        I thought it was funny. The anonymity of the internet allows us to make racial jokes without getting worried about getting gang-banged. The violent street type of, that is.

        February 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm |
  15. Have a Drink for Nascar

    WATER. I like to drink. Drinking is good.

    I don't need sweeteners or flavor. Just like my rocketship, I'm a machine that needs fuel.

    Water makes up 70% of my body so I drink it. Water is good!!! Wish the whole WORLD had clean water to drink!!!

    February 19, 2011 at 1:48 am |
  16. Drink Clean

    WATER. I like to drink. Drinking is good.

    I don't need sweeteners or flavor. Just like my rocketship, I'm a machine that needs fuel.

    Water makes up 70% of my body so I drink it. Water is good!!! Wish the whole WORLD had clean water to drink!!!

    Sheet Fire ta Goodness Gracious, By Golly...

    Peace Y'all

    February 19, 2011 at 1:40 am |
  17. canucken

    Martin has been ahead of the curve for years in his training routines and diet. He's an interesting guy, very renaissance man in a way.

    February 19, 2011 at 1:24 am |
  18. iC_99

    how bout just watching it, and get the "redneck" perception out of your head. Geez. The fanbase is not all redneck ya know. And neither are the drivers. There are more guys from SoCal driving in NASCAR now, that it outnumbers the "rednecks"

    February 19, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  19. xwishfirex

    Cool. Go Dale Jr.

    February 19, 2011 at 12:12 am |
  20. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    If NASCAR were less redneck or more diverse I would watch it.

    February 18, 2011 at 7:54 pm |
    • s

      Silly! The NBA is just as diverse. Go watch that.

      February 19, 2011 at 12:12 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        At least there is more than one color.

        February 21, 2011 at 11:53 am |
    • RowdyFan

      Jdizzle McHammerpants your statement SHOUTS your ignorance and leaves no doubt as to your complete lack of knowledge of just how divers NASCAR is. I would suggest you take the time to familiarize your self but your statement reeks of a person unmotivated to do anything except spew what ever negative ilk you've picked up from the other couch potatoes to the left and right of you.

      February 19, 2011 at 6:44 am |
    • Eric Cartman

      I'm just as poor and stupid as you!!! You don't think I can make a left turn better than you!!! Well bring it on bi7ch!!!

      February 19, 2011 at 10:34 am |
      • RowdyFan

        Are you the couch potato on Jdizzle's left or right?

        February 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants

        I take it Rowdy Fan watches his NASCAR not from the couch, but while shoveling his neighbor's driveway out, helping old ladies across the street, and working on a cure for cancer.

        February 21, 2011 at 11:54 am |
    • I'd Rather Be Driving

      Here's a sport where your average, newbie, so-called fan watches, HOPING that there will be an accident instead of appreciating the skill of the driving. Sounds the same as watching hockey HOPING for a fight (no, not all fans – just the loud, ignorant ones).

      NASCAR is the fastest growing spectator sport in the nation. Paid advertising & word-of-mouth is spreading the news about the fun of NASCAR – and it's all GEARED TOWARDS THE UNEDUCATED, RIGHT WINGERS = rednecks.

      It used to be fun to watch – to see how the skill of each driver plays out. Now it, like most sports, is more about advertising & the players pay – no longer fun. I've switched over to Formula One racing. Now THERE'S where you to to watch driving skills!

      February 21, 2011 at 7:54 am |
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