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Mark Martin signs a shirt for one of his younger fans. (Hill ’n Holler staff photo by Caroll Lucas) Many more PHOTOS BELOW

Mark Martin signs a shirt for one of his younger fans. (Hill ’n Holler staff photo by Caroll Lucas) Many more PHOTOS BELOW

Batesville, Ark. — Batesville’s famous and favorite son NASCAR’s Mark Martin came home Saturday for his annual Fan Appreciation Day and brought Danica Patrick and Buddy Baker along for the fun.
Fans filled the service area of Mark Martin Ford and waited in line to get him to sign autographs on their T-shirts, their hats, model cars, even a piece of a car he wrecked,
Mark was there on and off all day but Patrick, who was busy qualifying 7th at Talladega, didn’t get there until 4 p.m. and the 250 fans who got arm bracelets waited in line for a couple of hours to see the diminutive, tough little racer who said she was going to win today. (Danica led six early laps Sunday, ran into Brad Keslowski on lap 14, then had some engine overheating problems and finished 22nd, ahead of Terry LaBonte, Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr.)
The fans, some of who have been to several of these events were in fine form and screamed and hollered when their racers came into sight.
Many of them came a distance to see Mark Martin. Curtis Bolt and his wife Sandie have traveled to Batesville every year for this event since 2006 all the way from Michigan. Curtis grabbed the mike and helped stir up the fans to greet the racers.
Another loyal Mark Martin fan, Bob Craig of Branson, Mo., was also there .. Craig said he has watched Martin’s career since he was a “kid in the mid ’70’s.” He told us he had seen him race at the fairgrounds in Springfield, Mo., then followed him as he “reached the pinnacle” as a NASCAR racer.
Talking about the young Danica Patrick, Craig said “she’s good or better than a lot of them out there.” Talking about the racing game, Craig said “you have to perform or you’re gone.”
There were more than 300 fans at the Mark Martin Museum and car dealership Saturday, and Craig said that when Dale Jr. was a featured racer he brought in a bigger crowd.
Those who showed up were devoted. There were women, young and old, lots of guys, some wearing military uniforms, some in wheel chairs, young kids, even a monkey who had it’s racing jacket autographed by Danica Patrick.
Buddy Baker, who raced back in the ’70’s and is now a commentator, like Danica signed a limited number of autographs and was there to talk to the fans after the autograph sessions ended. Martin, Patrick and Baker answered fans questions. When asked if he missed racing, Martin who said he is “retired” said he missed the adrenalin rush . Asked about the race at Richmond last week, Patrick said “I sucked”.
To view our video of the first part of the Q&A session, click HERE.
To see and hear more of the Q&A session, click HERE.
Update: Danica Patrick finished seventh Saturday night, May 10. in the 5-Hour Energy 400 at Kansas Speedway, her career best in the Cup series. She had qualified ninth. Teammate Kevin Harvick led 119 laps and finished second.
C.L.
Click photos for larger view

Danica Patrick makes her entrance. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Danica Patrick makes her entrance. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)


Mark Martin autographs some stuffed animals. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Mark Martin autographs some stuffed animals. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

A happy Cody Rollins of Springfield, Mo., shows off his trophy. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

A happy Cody Rollins of Springfield, Mo., shows off his trophy. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Danica autographs a hat (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Danica autographs a hat (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Mark Martin, Danica Patrick and Buddy Baker talked to the fans and each other during the Q & A session. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Mark Martin, Danica Patrick and Buddy Baker talked to the fans and each other during the Q & A session. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Nine year-old Madison Morris of Pleasant Plains, Ark., got to see Danica. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Nine year-old Madison Morris of Pleasant Plains, Ark., got to see Danica. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

A fan from Branson, Mo., Bob Craig, waits in line for a Danica autograph. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

A fan from Branson, Mo., Bob Craig, waits in line for a Danica autograph. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Curtis and Sandi Bolt came here from Michigan for Fan Appreciation Day. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

Curtis and Sandi Bolt came here from Michigan for Fan Appreciation Day. (Staff photo by Caroll Lucas)

The Kia Hamstar is greeted by Mooney Starr, manager of Mark Martin’s dealerships and co-owner of Batesville Motor Speedway. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

The Kia Hamstar is greeted by Mooney Starr, manager of Mark Martin’s dealerships and co-owner of Batesville Motor Speedway. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Danica takes a photo with two young fans. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Danica takes a photo with two young fans. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)


Mark autographs a car for two young fans. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Mark autographs a car for two young fans. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Danica signs autographs and poses with the military. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Danica signs autographs and poses with the military. (Staff photo by Mariann Hyslop)

Mark Martin Museum and Ford dealership in Batesville

Mark Martin Museum and Ford dealership in Batesville

Fan Appreciation Days poster

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