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Days Before Sudden Demise, Mark Martin’s Crew Chief Confessed Unresolved “Political” Issues With NASCAR at Richard Childress’ Expense

Published 01/18/2024, 3:49 PM EST

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Ryan Pemberton, a veteran NASCAR crew chief who recently served as director of competition at JR Motorsports passed away on Sunday at the age of 54. His first stint as a crew chief came in 1995 when he paired with Larry Pearson and finished 6th in the points standing in a series now known as Xfinity. He soon climbed the ranks and moved to the Cup Series in 1997 and was crew chief in 561 race starts over 16 years.

In his career as crew chief, Ryan Pemberton did his best to help his team win races and titles. He came agonizingly close to winning the Cup Series back in 1990 only to see it taken away from his team rather unfairly. At the time he was a pit crew member at Roush Racing for their No.6 driver Mark Martin. Despite winning the race at Richmond Raceway, the team was penalized with a points deduction and a hefty fine, all for an illegal carburetor spacer that was welded and not bolted on Martin’s car.

Ryan Pemberton called out Richard Childress Racing’s unfair means to win the 1990 Cup Series championship

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After Mark Martin aced the win at Richmond, the ugly scenes broke out at the finish lines which were put into motion by Richard Childress Racing. In the post-race inspection that was ignited by Richard Childress‘ team, it was determined that Martin’s car had an illegal carburetor and this resulted in a deduction of 46 team points for his team, a call that would come to bite them later in the season.

Just before his demise, Pemberton still had the incident fresh in his mind and recalled the scenes from that day in a pre-recorded interview with renowned journalist, Rick Houston. He said, “It’s really a BS thing because there’s a measurement and you can’t be over that. You put out a spacer on to get to that maximum height but they say that can be only a two-inch bolt on and it was two and a quarter… If you welded it on vs bolted it on, it would have been ok.

So it was a BS call, it was political, whatever that is back then, you know. Who would it have been back then, probably Childress. Somebody didn’t like it and made a big scene out of it. Pretty much nothing and we end up losing the race and the championship.” Despite Martin being allowed to stand with his victory the precious points were stripped off and they lost the title in the end to RCR’s Dale Earnhardt by just 26 points.

Read More: Kyle Busch Going All In as He Continues to Strengthen Richard Childress Racing With Another Sponsor for 2024 

Mark Martin who drove the No.6 Ford that day at Richmond Raceway was also of the opinion that the call did cost them while also questioning the absence of Bill France Jr during the inspection.

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Mark Martin felt Bill France Jr’s absence at the finish line at Richmond raised major questions

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Martin is arguably the best Roush Racing driver in their history despite not winning the championship. With 40 Cup wins under his belt, he finished as a runner-up in five NASCAR seasons  (1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2009). However, if it wasn’t for the penalty call in 1990 Richmond, he might as well had his Cup championship dream come true. For all the drama that unfolded that day, one thing that caught Martin’s eye was the absence of Bill France Jr during the inspection of his car at the finish line.

Sharing his memory from that day, speaking on NASCAR’s YouTube channel he said, “After we won the race, they say that Richard Childress come you know dragging them over there and pointed and said ‘it’s right there.’ Bill France Jr didn’t happen to be there which is very rare. He wasn’t able to see it with his own eyes and be able to bring us to in the trailer and Jack be able to plead his case… but we weren’t able to have that conversation.”

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We would never be able to know how things could have gone differently if there would have been a just and fair inspection. Who knows Mark Martin could have well lifted the championship that year instead of Dale Earnhardt.

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Written by:

Chintan Devgania

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One take at a time

It was the Fast & Furious movies that acted as my gateway to the world of cars and motorsports. Later, as I completed my undergrad in Journalism, I learned how to channel my thoughts and opinions, which only helped me kick-start my career as a sportswriter. Having written multiple copies for the Scottish Daily, I am now looking to expand and contribute at EssentiallySports as a NASCAR writer, informing, enlightening, and entertaining the fans with my stories.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Ramesh