The most surprised person to find Mark Martin in Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway was the driver himself.
The 50-year-old NASCAR star has run well but has had to deal with considerable bad luck this season. It looked like more of the same yesterday when the battery in his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet began to fail before the halfway mark in the LifeLock 400 Sprint Cup race at Brooklyn, Mich.
Martin turned off almost everything in the car, nursing it as best he could. Then he realized the race was going to be a fuel-economy run.
"I always, always come up short in those gas things," Martin said. "I'm probably about 2 and 25 in these things."
Make that 3 and 25 now.
Martin saved just enough gas to hang on for his third victory of the season and 38th of his career.
Jimmie Johnson dominated most of the race and took the lead from Greg Biffle six laps from the end as Martin watched the duel from third place.
Johnson, the three-time reigning Cup champion, ran out of gas two laps from the finish, giving the lead to Biffle. But he also ran out of gas as the final trip around the 2-mile oval began, clearing the way for Martin to drive to the front.
Martin's car also was left with an empty tank on the last lap, but he was able to coast to the finish line almost 3 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Gordon.
Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya and series points leader Tony Stewart.
Johnson took the lead on the ninth lap and looked unbeatable, leading 141 of the next 142 laps. But Biffle and Hamlin both came out ahead of Johnson when the leaders pitted under caution on lap 154. At that point, the leaders were being told to conserve fuel.
Johnson took the runner-up spot on lap 179, and was right behind the leader on lap 193, and managed to pass Biffle, who immediately sped up and tried to repass Johnson, again causing both to use more gas.
"The 48 [Johnson] came up there and ran like we weren't on a fuel-economy run," Biffle said. "I messed with him a little bit. It made me use too much throttle and burned up the gas."
Martin said crew chief Alan Gustafson told him he could race hard for about 10 laps after the last pit stop, but Martin said he began to conserve fuel after two or three laps.
"The battery had been going dead since lap 75 and I turned off all the fans and stuff," he said. "I turned it off after we crossed the finish line and coasted all the way around. Then I tried to start it up to drive it to Victory Lane and it wouldn't even turn over. It ran exactly as far as it was going to run."
* Reigning NASCAR truck champion Johnny Benson is in serious but stable condition after a fiery crash during a SuperModified race. He collided with another car on Saturday night at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich., when his car slammed into the wall and erupted into flames. *