LAS VEGAS - Mark Martin was practicing, sans firesuit, helmet and car.
There was no steering wheel in his hands, likely replaced instead by a TV remote and a spatula.
The TV was tuned to last week's NASCAR Busch Series race at Mexico City, and Martin was surrounded by friends and family.
The memory alone was enough to make him smile.
"I practiced for my Bristol weekend," he said. "I sure did. We had a big barbecue, big cookout, got the friends all together and watched it on TV."
In a few weeks, Martin will miss the race at Bristol Motor Speedway, sitting out a Nextel Cup Series race for the first time since 1987.
But at least for today, Martin will continue his streak of 621 consecutive starts when he runs the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Despite suggestions and mass predictions to the contrary, Martin insists he's sticking to his plan to drive a part-time schedule this season for Ginn Racing.
It wouldn't have been an issue, but Martin is leading the points standings for the first time since September 2002. Because the 48-year-old has yet to win a championship, both drivers and media members alike figured he'd change his mind at some point.
"I'm going to sit back this year and watch Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards get as many gray hairs as I have," Martin said, a grin creasing the deep lines on his face.
But driver Jeff Burton, who previously bet Martin would change his mind, said missing a Cup race will be harder than it sounds.
At the same time, Burton conceded he's never seen his friend so happy before.
"He calls me and sounds like a teenage schoolgirl," Burton said. "It's kind of sickening, to be honest.
"He is in a place in his deal where he is really relaxed, really comfortable."
Richard Childress Racing driver Clint Bowyer was fastest in both of Saturday's Nextel Cup practice sessions, leading a group of three Chevrolets both times.
In the first practice, Bowyer paced Jimmie Johnson, Earnhardt and the Dodge of Juan Pablo Montoya.
Later, in the final practice, Mark Martin was second, followed by Jeff Burton and Las Vegas native Kurt Busch in a Dodge.
After wrecking during Friday's qualifying, former Inland Empire resident David Gilliland was 28th-fastest in his backup car during the first practice, and improved to 22nd in the final session.
THE FORCE IS WITH HER
NHRA Funny Car rookie Ashley Force was at the track on Saturday, and had a warning for viewers of the "Driving Force" reality show.
In a future episode, father John Force goes surfing - in the nude.
"I was traumatized Thursday night," Ashley said. "My dad goes down to the beach with a surfboard that a fan made for him and skinny-dips into the ocean."
"There was my dad, without a tan at all. Thankfully, it was at a distance."
Certainly, that scene will make the cut.
Ashley was asked what was easier: driving a Funny Car at more than 300 mph or handling her legendary father.
"Depends on how much coffee he's had," she said.
In related news, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith said Friday that he was still interested in purchasing the NHRA.
NHRA officials have repeatedly said they aren't selling anything.
"My desire is still on the table," Smith said. We're ready when they are. We're waiting every day for the phone to ring. I spend a lot of time just sitting by the phone, waiting for the phone to ring."