WILL SOMEONE please tell
he's not supposed to be winning like this at age 50?
Martin's contemporaries, Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd, have been retired from racing for a couple years. But here's Martin winning three of the last eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races. He's showing racers young enough to be his sons how to git 'r done.
Upon further review, don't say a word to ol' Mark. While everyone waits for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to improve his finishes under the guidance of interim crew chief Lance McGrew, Martin is one of the best stories in racing.
Martin's victory at Michigan, the 38th of his Cup career, jumped him to eighth place, up five places in the standings. He pounced on the win after Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle ran out of fuel.
Think of Martin and "respect" comes to mind. I don't think he has an enemy in the sport.
Following Martin's latest win in the No. 5 Chevrolet, team owner Rick Hendrick said, "I've worked with a lot of drivers. He's probably as good as I've ever seen on a chassis, reading the chassis, knowing what he wants, and then knowing how to run the race.
"He's very, very focused. He's like a computer. When he sits down with those other drivers, he starts explaining his car, they listen. I mean, that was what Jeff Gordon told me before we ever got him to come over. He said he'll help us all. You know, Jimmie [Johnson] said that. After about two or three races, Junior [Earnhardt] said, 'You need to get him to run a couple more years.'
"So it's everything from the way you read the car, from the physical conditioning, the shape he's in and the regimen he has. I mean, he adds so much to the entire organization."
While Martin would be delighted to be a Chaser for the fourth time, he is a glass-half-empty guy, who is still seeking his first Cup championship.
"I'm not gonna deal with expectations that cut my legs out from under me again ever in my career," he said. "I'm going to go out and drive the race car as hard as I can drive every time I get in it. I'm not gonna expect anything other than, you know, a tremendous effort by my team and from myself.
"I'm really pleased that we are having such a great year. But the thing that pleases me more than the trophies is just that we've been fast. That's really important. When you're not fast, there's not a whole lot you can do. But when you are fast, if you keep doing that every week, sooner or later you get great results.
"So, I just don't feel any pressure. I'd like to see us make the Chase, because this race team deserves it."
With six laps remaining at Michigan, Jimmie Johnson passed Greg Biffle for the lead. Then, on the final lap, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet ran out of fuel. Johnson led 146 of the 200 laps.
"At the time, in the car, I wanted to have a meltdown," the three-time reigning Cup champion said on a Tuesday conference call. "I started to have a meltdown and then this feeling came over my body. We did everything we could to win the race. Needing to drive the car that hard to get to the front came into play, and we can't control that.
"So, yes, I was disappointed. [As] I got out of the car, a sensation came over me that, yeah [not winning stinks], but we had a lot to be proud of. We dominated the race, and those positive things started coming to the top of my mind instead of belaboring the negative stuff."
Since last July's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard was such an embarrassment, with tires lasting only a few laps before they were worn, NASCAR and Goodyear want to make sure there is no repeat.
Following tire-testing this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon guaranteed that the new tires will hold up.
"I'm 100 percent confident," the four-time Cup champion said. "I ran this tire as hard as I possibly could. I can promise all the fans [that they will] see a great race and be confident that the tires are not going to be an issue."
Toyota/Save Mart 350
Infineon Raceway, Sonoma, Calif.
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.
TV/Radio: TNT/ESPN (950-AM), WNPV (1440-AM), WDSD (94.7-FM)
Race course: 1.99-mile road course
Race distance: 218.9 miles/350 kilometers/110 laps
Last year's race winner: Kyle Busch
Last year's pole winner: Kasey Kahne, 92.153 mph
Track qualifying record: Jeff Gordon, 94.325 mph (June 2005)
Track facts: In winning last year's race, Kyle Busch dominated, leading 78 laps, including the last 42. David Gilliland was runner-up; Jeff Gordon was third ... Kasey Kahne, the polesitter, finished 33rd ... Jeff Gordon's five wins lead all drivers at the track ... Juan Pablo Montoya's only Sprint Cup victory was 2 years ago at Sonoma. With three top-10 finishes in the last four races, Montoya is 43 points out of the 12th and final Chase spot ... Denny Hamlin's third place at Michigan is his first top-10 in seven races ... Weird stat of the week: Bobby Labonte has finished 28th in the last three races.
2009 wins: Kyle Busch and Mark Martin, 3 each; Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson, 2 each; Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, David Reutimann, Tony Stewart, 1 each.
SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (Through 15 of 36 races)
1. Tony Stewart, (1 last week) 2189 -
2. Jeff Gordon, (2) 2142 -47
3. Jimmie Johnson, (3) 2047 -142
4. Kurt Busch, (5) 1961 -228
5. Ryan Newman, (4) 1934 -255
6. Carl Edwards, (6) 1927 -262
7. Greg Biffle, (7) 1913 -276
8. Mark Martin, (13) 1868 -321
9. Kyle Busch, (9) 1860 -329
10. Denny Hamlin, (12) 1849 -340
11. Matt Kenseth, (8) 1848 -341
12. Jeff Burton, (10) 1810 -379
13. David Reutimann, (11) 1807 -382
14. Juan Montoya, (15) 1767 -422
15. Kasey Kahne, (14) 1719 -470