KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Mark Martin knows it's inevitable. His run as the all-time leading winner in the Nationwide Series is about to end.
It may happen Saturday at Dover. Or next week at Charlotte.
But certainly Kyle Busch, with 48 career Nationwide wins, will soon tie -- and eventually surpass -- Martin's record 49 victories that began, fittingly, back in 1987 at Dover.
Kyle Busch was 2 years old at the time.
"It's like Jack Ingram saw it coming when I was coming along," Martin said of the previous record holder, whose mark of 31 wins was shattered by Martin in 1998.
"But it's been fun. I've had a lot of great times and a lot of success in the Nationwide Series, and Kyle passing my mark up won't change any of that. He's going to pass it, and this is a good weekend for that to happen."
Indeed, Busch has three career Nationwide wins at Dover, including a sweep last season; and he's won six times at Charlotte, including last spring's race.
Whenever Busch breaks the record, he has invited Martin to share in the celebration in victory lane.
"So you know, Kyle has shown an awful lot of respect to the people who have been here in the sport and that came before him," said Martin, 52. "I really admire that. He's a young man who didn't really even know who (two-time champion) Sam Ard was, and has acknowledged Sam probably more than any of us, and helped Sam and his family out.
"So I respect Kyle for the way he has shown respect for the people that were in the sport before him who were successful."
In all, Busch has 95 victories across NASCAR's top three divisions -- 21 in Sprint Cup; 48 in Nationwide and 26 in Camping World Trucks -- which ranks sixth all-time, one behind Martin and 105 behind the all-time leader, Richard Petty, who has 200, all in Cup.
Martin ran only one full-time Nationwide season in 1987 before coming a full-time Sprint Cup driver in 1988 for Jack Roush. But when Martin showed up in Roush's No. 60 Ford, he dominated the series, just as Kyle Busch does now. At one point, Martin won 38 races from 1993 to 2000 in the then-Busch Series in 129 starts, with 77 top fives.
"One of the things that's very similar is when we would unload that 60 car, most everybody in the garage figured they were racing for second," Martin said. "I think that's how they feel about Kyle and the 18 car.
"The times have changed, and cars have changed. And the racing has changed somewhat, too. But the bottom line was: We had a very dominating kind of spell there in the Nationwide Series for several years there, and we only raced a limited schedule. We would run 12 or 14 races each year, where Kyle's running them all. He's reeling them off a lot quicker than they were able to, because we would only run a dozen races or so each year."
It didn't take much prodding for Martin to recall his first Nationwide win 24 years ago at Dover.
"I was running third and Brett Bodine and Tommy Ellis tangled," Martin recalled. "Two hardheads out there on the racetrack tangled, and I slipped right by the two of them and got the win."
Martin has started two Nationwide races this season, winning No. 49 at Las Vegas and finishing eighth at California. He's entered in two more races -- at Kentucky and at Michigan -- so he could make it a little harder for Busch.
"We did manage to get a big win ... the first win for Turner Motorsports there in Vegas, so it was really cool," Martin said. "Those things don't happen every day, especially when you get to this point in my career.
"So I've enjoyed them, and we'll give them our best shot every time we climb in that thing. I don't know what the future holds. We may run some more in 2012 in the Nationwide Series, and then we may not. But either way, with the exception of making a little fun out of it, there's no holding Kyle Busch back."
Interestingly, it was Busch's decision to leave Hendrick Motorsports for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008 that opened the door for Martin to come out of semiretirement and race the No. 5 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup series. Now that Martin's contract is about to expire and Kasey Kahne will move into the No. 5 next year, Martin's future is uncertain.
"Well, lucky for me, I don't need a job, so I don't have to worry about it," said Martin. "If I was 20 years younger, I would be concerned about it. But I'm in a good position right now, being able to wait it out and let things play out the way they will.
"Something really, really fun and exciting is going to work out for me, something that will be very rewarding, and I'm in no hurry to force that to happen. I'll just wait until it sort of falls in my lap, just like the 5 car did. I wasn't looking for a job when the 5 thing fell into my lap.
"Sooner or later, maybe I'll get a chance to do something else in the sport as well. I want to be a part of this sport for a long, long time, but they keep running at me about driving their stuff, so we'll just wait and see what happens."