HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Arkansas — Legendary NASCAR driver Mark Martin will be the celebrity grand marshal for the First Ever 12th Annual World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17, 2015, in downtown Hot Springs.
A man accustomed to driving high-powered racing cars 500 miles in an afternoon will cover the 98-foot length of the parade on world-famous Bridge Street in about 30 seconds in a convertible.
“We have wanted to have Mark Martin, one of Arkansas’s most beloved citizens, be our celebrity grand marshal for a long time,” said Steve Arrison, CEO of Visit Hot Springs, the city’s convention and visitors bureau. “We lucked out this year and found him with some time available to be our guest.”
If you are a racing fan, you probably know him as one of NASCAR’s superstars. If you live in Arkansas, you know him as one of the state’s most recognized celebrities.
Martin was born on January 9, 1959, in Batesville, Ark. He now lives in Daytona, Fla., with his wife and four children. However he keeps in touch with his roots by running the express trucking his father started, J-Mar Express, in Searcy, Ark.
Martin started his racing career in 1974 in a car built and sponsored by his father. In 1989, he won his first NASCAR Winston Cup at the North Carolina Motor Speedway. He soon became the sixth modern era driver to win four races in a row (he won at Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol and Darlington). In 1997 he broke the all-time Bush series record to win the race. He is still the career wins leader in the Bush National Series with 47 wins. It is said Martin probably is the most respected driver on the circuit.
Martin has written a book about his life, Driven to Race, and has co-written a book about NASCAR racing, NASCAR for Dummies.
In early September Martin returned to the Roush Fenway Racing team as the team’s driver development coach. Martin was the first driver hired by team owner Jack Roush when he founded his NASCAR operation in 1988. The two went on to become one of the most successful duos in sports history, accumulating 83 NASCAR wins, four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) Championship runner-up finishes, and building Roush Fenway into the winningest team in NASCAR history.
“I’m excited to return to Roush Fenway Racing, as it feels like I’m going home to where I belong,” Martin said. “I was fortunate to help build this team from the beginning and it’s very humbling to be a part of Jack’s team again. When Jack first hired me in 1988 we didn’t talk about salary or benefits or perks, we talked about testing, tires and putting the right personnel into place to win on the track. That commitment is what stood out to me then and it’s still what stands out to me today.”
Since its beginning as the idea of some Hot Springs residents enjoying an adult beverage in 2003, The World’s Shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade has grown to an annual magnet for about 30,000 fun-lovers from across America drawn to its international reputation as the place to have fun on this most Irish of days.
The parade annually includes 40 marching units, floats, dancers, singers, performance artists, the International Order of the Marching Irish Elvi (50 green-clad Elvis impersonators), marching Irish wolfhounds and assorted crazies.
For more information call Steve Arrison at 501-321-2027.