E.A. Sports Today

Award-winning words

Alexandria native Woods recognized for writing Martin’s NASCAR Hall of Fame induction speech

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

When Mark Martin gave his speech at his January induction into the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame, his words – candid and heartfelt – came in a strong Calhoun County accent.

He talked of second chances and the yearning a kid from Arkansas who loved to drive fast cars and win races standing outside the garage fence at Daytona had to be on the other side.

And earlier this month, that speech, crafted by Alexandria native Kevin Woods, was recognized with top honors at the PR News’ Platinum Awards Ceremony for speech writing.

Woods, Rouch Fenway Racing’s vice president of marketing operations and communications, served as Martin’s marketing and PR director for many years.

Martin was Roush Fenway’s first driver in the NASCAR series and went on to drive 19 seasons in the iconic No. 6 Ford for team owner Jack Roush. He won 96 times — 40 on the Cup side, including twice at Talladega (1995 and 1997) — and is sometimes called the best driver to never win a Cup championship.

Woods, 45, started working with Martin when he joined Roush Fenway in 2001 and went with him to Ginn Racing and DEI in 2007 and 2008. When the time came for the driver to thank all of those who made the Hall of Fame journey possible, it was Woods he chose to set the thoughts to paper.

“For me, it was probably the greatest honor in my career when he asked me to put it together for him,” Woods said. “He told me this would really be his last time to have this kind of forum to be able to thank all the people that had made it possible for him to stand on that stage that night as a member of the Hall of Fame.

“When you work in sports, you always want to be able to work with the best and I can truly say that I was able to do that. Not only that, but when that person’s biggest moment comes, for them to turn to you and ask them to make it the best as it can be and they convey that type of importance, it’s a pretty big honor and I’m proud to have been associated and have just a tiny piece of all he was able to accomplish.

“During his career Mark had a lot of crew chiefs, crew guys, team members and even PR people. I never once could make his car go faster, but when the time came where he needed someone to help with this, he turned to me and that meant the world to me.”

The award was announced Sept. 14 in New York. Martin called it “an incredible honor and a really big deal to me.”

While Woods penned the words, it was the way Martin presented the speech he felt set it apart, he said.

“It was very genuine and from the heart,” Woods said. “That was due to the fact it was pretty much his thoughts that I had heard him convey over the years, so there was no stretch. With Mark, what you see – good or bad – is what you get. He’s pretty genuine in that regard.”

Here’s an excerpt from Mark Martin’s induction speech:

“I can’t tell you how it feels to stand up here in front of you tonight. It’s a feeling that my words could never do justice. To me it’s an honor — to say it’s an honor would be an understatement. To say it’s a culmination is a fact. It’s an honor beyond the wildest imagination of a kid from Arkansas that just loved to drive fast cars and win races.

“More importantly, it’s the recognition of hard work, determination, drive and focus, not of myself, but of those that gave their blood, sweat and tears to put me up here tonight. I want to thank all the Hall members, all the ones that came before me. If not for the groundwork they laid with their relentless passion and effort and sacrifice to the sport, there might not be a NASCAR at all, and there certainly wouldn’t be no Hall of Fame.

“When I was informed that I’d be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was greatly humbled and speechless to even be mentioned in the same breath with my racing idols. I was overwhelmed with appreciation and gratitude for all those that helped put me in a position to even compete in NASCAR races.”

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