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Next generation waits its turn

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2002

Mark Martin's celebration after winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speed way lasted well into the night.

Through the showers of champagne and confetti, the smoke of fireworks and the flashes of cameras, young Matt Martin was never more than an arm's length away from his father.

While Victory Lane had eluded Mark since the 2000 season, it was familiar territory for 10-year-old Matt. Like so many children of racing stars, Matt is proving to be a chip off the old block.

Matt followed his father's tire tracks by driving the Bandolero Bandit-class Le gends car during weekly shows at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Both father and son won main events at the track this year.

''It really made me feel special to win at the same track that I was able to watch my dad win at this year,'' Matt said.

Whether it be in go-karts, Legends, ARCA Re/Max or NASCAR Busch Series cars, racing's newest young guns are turning laps with the hope of keeping the family name in the fast lane for another generation.

Martin isn't the only driver in NASCAR with a youngster waiting in the wings.

David Ragan, son of former Winston Cup Series driver Ken Ragan; Austin Petty, son of Kyle Petty and grandson of Richard Petty; Coleman Pressley, son of Craftsman Truck Series driver Robert Pressley; Kyle Grissom, son of Winston Cup driver Steve Grissom; Corey LaJoie, son of Busch Series driver Randy LaJoie; Don Blaney, brother of Winston Cup driver Dave Blaney and Brandon McReynolds, son of former Winston Cup crew chief Lar ry McReynolds, all are Legends Series regulars at Lowe's and Atlanta.

Jason Jarrett and Justin Labonte, sons of Winston Cup champions Dale Jarrett and Terry Labonte, drive on the ARCA Re/Max Series, while Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Steadman Marlin, sons of Bobby Hamilton and Sterling Marlin, work the Busch Series.

Just like Kyle Petty followed his father, Richard, into the sport and Richard followed his father, Lee, a handful of current Winston Cup drivers once were eager sons waiting for their turns at the wheel. Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Sterling Marlin all followed their fathers to the Winston Cup level.

Pressley supplanted his father, Bob, as the Mid-Atlantic Region champion of the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series in 1987. Now Pressley faces his own passing of the torch as his 13-year-old son continues to make huge strides in Legends cars.

''It's pretty rewarding to have him out there wanting to run my old number (59) and follow in mine and my dad's footsteps," Pressley said. "It's just one of those things that only a parent knows.''

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.



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