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Martin Surges to Phoenix Victory
AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Not bad, old man.
The 36th victory of Mark Martin's career was perhaps his most fulfilling.
The 50-year-old polesitter streaked away from Tony Stewart after a restart with six laps remaining to win Saturday night's Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin does a victory lap with the checkered flag after winning the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin became the oldest driver to win in the series since Morgan Shepherd won at age 51 on March 20, 1993 at Atlanta. Martin's victory was his first since Oct. 9, 2005 at Kansas Speedway and his first since joining Hendrick Motorsports to start the 2009 season.
Stewart ran second followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle. Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., David Reutimann, Sam Hornish Jr. and Carl Edwards completed the top 10, as a late caution for an accident involving Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Casey Mears scrambled the finishing order.
"The thought went through my mind -- 1989 with Jack Roush (Martin's former car owner) -- when I got my first win at Rockingham, I said, 'My life is fulfilled,'" Martin said in victory lane. "I thought about saying that again tonight, but I'll stop short of that.
"But it means that much. It means just as much as getting that first one to me. We made a couple of early adjustments, but after that we never made adjustments. There were cars better than us in the middle of the race, but it came to us. At the end, nobody could run with us."
Martin took the lead from Earnhardt with a pass off Turn 2 on Lap 256 of 312 at the 1-mile flat track. He increased his advantage over Stewart to more than four seconds before Earnhardt and Mears tangled in Turn 4 on Lap 301.
Stewart's teammate, Ryan Newman, stayed out on old tires and took the green flag in the lead on Lap 307 but quickly faded. Martin was back in front before the cars got back to the start/finish line and began to pull away. He was .734 seconds ahead of Stewart at the finish.
The race left Stewart still seeking his first victory as an owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing, but the runner-up was encouraged by his progress.
"We're so close," Stewart said. "We're going to win one of these soon. (But) I'm glad to see Mark get this win. He deserved it. He had the fastest car."
Series points leader Jeff Gordon took advantage of a pair of opportune cautions to avert disaster -- temporarily -- midway through the race. On Lap 149, contact between Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet and Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota bent the left front fender of Gordon's car, causing it to rub against the tire.
Gordon began to drop back, but two laps later, AJ Allmendinger's Dodge slammed the Turn 2 wall to cause the third caution of the race. Gordon pitted for repairs on Lap 152, while most lead lap cars stayed on the track, having come to the pits on Lap 139.
On Lap 165, contact from Gordon's Chevy turned Michael Waltrip into Robby Gordon, causing the fourth caution. Earnhardt, Gordon, Marcos Ambrose and David Stremme stayed on the track while the rest of the lead-lap cars came to the pits.
Though Gordon gradually faded on older tires, he remained in the top 10 until his crew failed to secure a lug nut on the car during a pit stop on Lap 233. Having squandered his good fortune, Gordon finished 25th and lost 77 points of his advantage in the standings. He now leads second-place Johnson by 85.
Notes: After his late accident, Earnhardt dropped to 31st at the finish… Kyle Busch beat Stewart out of the pits on the final stop under caution on Lap 302 but was penalized for speeding on pit road. He finished 17th.
Mark Martin embarks on a new chapter in his storied racing career as he joins Ginn Racing where he will drive the No. 01 US Army Chevrolet in 2007. Martin will split seat time with rookie Regan Smith in the car, with Martin expected to run around 22 races, including the Daytona 500, Budweiser Shootout, Nextel All-Star Challenge and Coca-Cola 600.
Martin, a true legend within the sport, enters his 25th season of NEXTEL Cup racing, the last 19 of which he spent behind the wheel of the No. 6 Roush Racing car. Martin became one of only three drivers to qualify for the “Chase” for the Nextel Cup last season and his ninth-place finish in the points was his 16th top-10 points finish in the past 18 seasons.
He started his 600th consecutive Nextel Cup race in 2006 and he made his 617th consecutive start in the season finale at Homestead. He finished fourth in the points in 2004 and 2005 and he finished inside the top-five in the final point standings in 12 of the last 16 seasons. In addition, Martin has four runner-up finishes, including a second-place finish in 2002.
Martin has compiled one of the most successful careers in NASCAR history. His 35 wins are the third most among active drivers. He is currently fourth in Nextel Cup’s all-time standings and his name appears in the top 10 of several of NASCAR’s all-time lists. He has currently started 674 Cup races and 617 consecutively, dating back to Feb 18, 1988. In 674 starts Martin has 234 top-five finishes, 374 top-five finishes and 41 poles.
In addition, Martin’s 47 victories in the Busch Series are a series record, as are his 29 Busch poles. One of the fiercest and well rounded drivers in the sport, Martin became the first driver to win a Cup, Busch, Truck and IROC race at the same track with his win in the truck series at California Speedway.
Martin captured his record fifth Championship in the International Race of Champions series in 2005. The veteran used wins at Daytona and Richmond to bring his record total to 13th wins in the IROC series. Martin now has five championships in the series, including a record three straight from 1996-98.
Martin began his stock car racing career at the age of 15 on the local Arkansas dirt tracks. He won his first race in only his third start and the Arkansas State Championship in his first year of racing in 1974. He moved up to the V-8 division in 1976 and began racing on asphalt later that year.
His success continued, and by 1977 he began competing in the ASA series against drivers such as Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison and Dick Trickle. He became the ASA Rookie of the Year in 1977, and then went on to win three consecutive championships from 1978-80.
Martin ran five NASCAR Cup races in 1981, which began laying the groundwork for his first full season in 1982. He had an impressive rookie year with eight top-10 finishes, although he never received payment from his sponsor. Unable to fund the team himself, Martin auctioned off everything in his shop in April 1983. He ran a limited Cup schedule for different owners that year before returning to the ASA series from 1984-86, where he claimed another championship in 1986.
Martin decided to take one more shot at NASCAR racing in 1987 when he drove a full-season Busch Grand National schedule for Bruce Lawmaster. It was Mark’s victory at Dover that year that sparked the attention of Jack Roush. Roush was preparing to begin his own Cup team in 1988 and selected Martin to be his driver.
Martin and Roush went on to achieve everything just short of a Cup title, earning 35 Nextel Cup victories and finishing second in the point standings four times (1990, 1994, 1998 and 2002), while consistently running at the front of the pack with one of the most successful race cars in NASCAR history.
Mark Martin Claims Front Row Starting Spot for 51st Daytona 500
Mark Martin celebrates with crew chief Alan Gustafson after locking in the outside pole position for the Daytona 500.
Daytona 500 pole sitter Martin Truex Jr. (right) and outside pole sitter Mark Martin celebrate their front row starting positions.
The No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team of Martin Truex Jr. and No. 5 Kellogg's Chevrolet team of Mark Martin celebrate their front row starting positions for the Daytona 500.
Hendrick Motorsports Celebrates 25 Years in Racing
Hendrick Motorsports drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. drive 25th anniversary commemorative car prior to practice for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday.
Hendrick Hendrick Motorsports kicked off its 25th anniversary in NASCAR racing on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway by unveiling four silver cars to mark the occasion. Taking part in the event were (left to right) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Rick Hendrick, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin took a team photo in front of their rides on the track.
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