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Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR
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 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.
Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Mark Martin does the "polish" victory lap to celebrate his win...
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.
Complete Race Results click here
Post-Race Driver Point Standings click here
NASCAR Newscast - Race Review click here
TV Broadcast Times*
Practice: Friday April 17 at 2 p.m./SPEED
Final Practice: Friday April 17 at 4:30 p.m./SPEED
Qualifying Time Trials: Friday April 17 at 8 p.m./SPEED
RaceDay, Pre-Race Show: Saturday April 18 at 7 p.m./SPEED
FOX Pre-Race Show: Saturday April 18 at 9 p.m./FOX
Race: Saturday April 18 at 9:44 p.m./FOX
*Times shown are AT - one hour ahead of ET, i.e. if it's 2 p.m./AT - it's 1 p.m./ET...
Green Flag Fast Facts
The Race: SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500
The Date: Saturday, April 18
The Track: Phoenix International Raceway; 1 mile oval
b 8:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 500 kilometers/312 laps/312 miles
TV: FOX, 9 p.m. AT
Radio: MRN and Sirius Satellite
2008 Polesitter: Ryan Newman
2008 Winner: Jimmie Johnson
Schedule: (local track time) Friday—Practice, 10:10 a.m.-12 p.m.; Final Practice, 12:30-2 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:10 p.m.
Year-To-Date Results & Point Standings click here
Qualifying Notes, Starting Lineup & More...
Mark Martin won the Coors Light Pole Award for the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 with a lap of 26.903
seconds, 133.814 mph.
Starting Lineup* click here
NASCAR Newscast - Phoenix Preview click here
NASCAR Beat Podcast - Phoenix Preview click here
- This is his 44th pole in 730 starts.
- This is his third pole and fifth top-10 start in 2009.
- This is his first pole in 25 races at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Kyle Busch (second) posted his seventh top-10 start of 2009 and his fourth in nine races at Phoenix
- Kurt Busch (third) posted his eighth top-10 start at Phoenix International Raceway. It is his fifth in eight
races this season.
- Scott Speed (18th) was the fastest qualifying rookie.
- Drivers that failed to qualify include: Todd Bodine, Jeremy Mayfield, Dexter Bean, Brandon Ash, and Trevor Boys.
*Does not reflect adjustments that may be made prior to the race start because of the cars that need to go
to the rear of the field due to engine and/or transmission changes or practice wrecks...
- Johnson Hopes To Extend Winning Streak At Phoenix...Last November, Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) made track history by becoming the first driver to win three consecutive races at Phoenix International Raceway.
On Saturday, the three-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will attempt to extend that history with a fourth consecutive Phoenix victory — this time in the SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500.
“There’s not really anything I can put my finger on,” Johnson said. “I know that’s a popular question, wanting to know why a driver does well at a certain track. I think something just clicks with certain drivers at certain places. We’ve just been able to get the car comfortable for me and I’ve just been able to get around the track. During a race there’s a lot that can go on at a short track like Phoenix and having a good pit stall and good pit stops is important too.”
He has three wins, six top fives, nine top 10s and one pole in 11 series starts at Phoenix. No shock, then, that Johnson leads five pre-race NASCAR Loop Data categories for Phoenix — Driver Rating (122.0), Average Running Position (4.992), Fastest Laps Run (266), Average Green Flag Speed (123.719 mph) and Laps in the Top 15 (2,383 or 95.4%). He also boasts an average finish of 5.5.
If Johnson requires more motivation, he need only look inward. The last driver to win four consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup races was … Jimmie Johnson. He did from 2004-’05 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
Chasing history and another Phoenix victory is a must for Johnson, who trails only Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in the series standings. The top-ranked Gordon leads the second-place Johnson by 162 points and is the series’ most recent winner, two weeks ago at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson finished second in that event, and knows he must keep pace to slice Gordon’s lead.
“I don’t really go into a race thinking about stats,” Johnson said. “It is pretty cool that we’ve had some good runs lately at Phoenix. The last win gave us some good momentum going into (the 2008 season-finale) at Homestead. Don’t get me wrong, a win is always a big deal and never easy and winning four in a row somewhere like Phoenix would certainly be special, but it’s not something that I’m really thinking about a lot.”
- Sweeps The Norm Rather Than Exception At Phoenix...Although it looks benign nestled against the Estrella Mountains, Phoenix International Raceway can be as tough as any wildlife lurking in nearby peaks.
The flat, one-mile track features tight turns and a unique dog-leg-shaped backstretch that forces concentration from beginning to end of each lap.
Yet once drivers “tune in” to those nuances, they tend to stay attuned. Just ask Jimmie Johnson, who hopes Sunday’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 will be his fourth consecutive victory there.
Sweeping seems contagious at Phoenix. There have been two season sweeps since the venue began hosting two NASCAR Sprint Cup events in 2005. (PIR had its first series race in 1988).
Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet) was the first driver to do so, winning both 2006 events. Johnson became the second driver with a Phoenix season sweep, capturing both 2008 events. He split with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in 2007, winning the fall event while Gordon won the spring race.
But back-to-back Phoenix victories weren’t unusual before the track had two races each year. Davey Allison was the first to do it in 1991 and ‘92. Jeff Burton (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) won the 2000 and ‘01 events, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard/AMP Energy Chevrolet) won in 2003 and ‘04.
- Richard Childress Racing A Team To Watch At Phoenix...While Hendrick Motorsports has claimed four consecutive victories at Phoenix International Raceway — three for Jimmie Johnson and one for Jeff Gordon — Richard Childress Racing shouldn’t be ignored.
Two RCR drivers, Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton, have won back-to-back races there, and teammate Clint Bowyer (No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet) has challenged for victories.
Harvick, who heads into Saturday in 14th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, is looking to vault back into the top 12, and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility.
Phoenix is a good place for a boost. Harvick has two wins, three top fives and six top 10s in 12 series starts there. According to pre-race NASCAR Loop Data statistics for Phoenix, he also owns the second-best Driver Rating (105.4), Average Running Position (7.9) and Laps in the Top 15 (2,113 or 84.6%).
Burton has two wins, five top fives and 11 top 10s in 19 series starts at Phoenix.
Bowyer, who has yet to win there, has been a factor. He made his series debut at Phoenix on April 23, 2005, finishing 22nd, and has two top fives in seven Phoenix starts — a runner-up finish last April and a fifth-place finish in April 2006.
Bowyer also has had some lousy Phoenix luck. In November 2006, he was 10th with eight laps remaining. A collision with Burton knocked an oil line loose and he ended the race in the garage — his last DNF (did not finish).
A year later, a potential top-five November finish was spoiled by late-race brake issues; Bowyer finished 11th.
Note: Coincidentally, Bowyer could tie Harvick’s record of consecutive races running at the finish this week. Bowyer has 80 consecutive starts running at the finish; Harvick has 81.
- Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, will make his 300th career series start in Saturday’s SUBWAY Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
- Mark Martin (No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet), who leads all drivers with nine top-five finishes at Phoenix, will be going for his 400th career top-10 finish.
- Greg Biffle will be going for his 50th career top-five finish.
- Clint Bowyer will be going for his 50th career top-10 finish.
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