2009-04-23 / Sports

"Old Man" Martin In Victory Lane

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Mark Marin Mark Marin PHOENIX, Ariz. - With his win in the Subway Fresh Fit 500, Mark Martin became the fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver 50 or older to go to victory lane.

The other three were Harry Gant (52), Morgan Shepherd (50) and Bobby Allison (50).

Martin started from the pole and led 157 of 312 laps.

"I hoped it would happen," said Martin. "But I didn't expect it to happen. I only hoped. But Rick Hendrick, you know, I sat and watched him make Tim Richmond's dreams come true from being sick, and this may not be as dramatic, but it's big to me."

"But you know, the response from the competitors means much more than the trophy, and that was an incredible ... really, really incredible, from all of the crew guys to all of the guys, including Jack Roush, who seemed genuinely happy. And Jack and I are at tight as we have ever been and have been through all of this."

Tony Stewart finished a close second.

"It seemed like what we fought, we fought all night and it didn't really change for us. As it got a little bit cooler it got more grip but that's Phoenix," said Stewart. "I think for us, it's been refreshing. Just when you've never had a start like this to the season, it's nice to finally have one. It's amazing to think that with a new team we can go out and have this kind of a start to the year."

Kurt Busch ran up front for most of the race and finished third.

Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex, David Reutimann, Sam Hornish, and Carl Edwards rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Top-12 Chase contenders after 8 of 36: 1. J. Gordon-1242, 2. Johnson-1157, 3. Ku. Busch-1144, 4. Stewart-1138, 5. Hamlin-1088, 6. Bowyer-1052, 7. Ky. Busch-1026, 8. Edwards-1023, 9. Reutimann- 992, 10. Kahne-975, 11. Burton- 953, 12. Kenseth

Biffle takes Phoenix Nationwide race

Greg Biffle won the Bashas' Supermarket 200 at Phoenix. It was Biffle's first win of the season and it gave car owner Jack Roush, his 100th victory.

Kyle Busch took over the points lead from Carl Edwards, who dropped to second.

Top-10 points leaders after 7 of 35: 1. Ky. Busch-1075, 2. Edwards 1028, Ragan-949, 4. Leffler- 932, 5. Brad Keselowski-898, 6. Logano-893, 7. Gaughan-822, 8. Allgaier-818, 9. Bliss-789, 10. Bliss- 789

Dodge's racing future "iffy"

Chrysler's involvement in racing has been around since long before NASCAR's founding in 1948. While their cars may continue to be operated by some teams, the manufacturer is untime: dergong some hard economic times.

Lindsey Young of the Chattanooga Free Press reported that the Obama administration told Chrysler (Dodge's parent company) it will get no more bailout money and has less than 30 days to get its financial house in order.

If Chrysler and Dodge are handed over to a bankruptcy judge next month, all NASCAR contracts will be voided, meaning the already struggling Dodge teams will be put even further behind.

The General Motors story is nearly as sobering. After being turned down for $17 billion in aid, the manufacturer was given until June 1 to eliminate billions of dollars in costs. While no one expects Chevrolet to go under, parent company GM also is likely headed to bankruptcy, though only to reorganize, not liquidate.

Either way, it's nearly impossible to believe any reorginazation would include NASCAR support as it currently is, estimated at $140 million annually. Ford already has cut its support dramatically after suffering a reported $14.6 billion loss in 2008, and even Toyota, which lost $1.6 billion last year, has indicated that it will not expand its NASCAR support.

Should the worst case scenario come to pass, it would have a negative impact on NASCAR Sprint Cup teams, but racing will continue. GM currently supports 14 of the top 40 teams in NASCAR.

Brian France, NASCAR's CEO has kept the lines of communication open with the manufacturers in Detroit - and abroad. And he firmly believes that racing is still the best possible marketing vehicle for the three American carmakers and Toyota.

"They're telling us that we're a very small part of their focus right now," France said. "Everything they're trying to do is get a restructuring plan for the federal government to approve. We've been very supportive of that.

"Their commitment to NASCAR - in terms of whether it works - is there. They acknowledge (the marketing value). But it's still on the priority list - pretty low down the pike."

"We're OK. We're just like everybody else. Hanging in there with the economy and trying to make some proper adjustments."

Although it was not widely publicized, France flew by commercial airlines to the races at California and Las Vegas Motor Speedway - a new mandate for all NASCAR employees traveling from Charlotte, N.C., to the West Coast.

"Commercial, I haven't done for a while," France continued. "But it is a sign of the times - a little bit. We try to be more efficient about how we do things and that's fine. It's good."

Next week: State of the Camping World Trucks

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams will be at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, while the Craftsman Trucks are at Kansas Speedway.

Sat., Apr. 25, Nationwide Series Aaron's 312, race 8 of 35; starting time: 2:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sat., Apr. 25, Camping World Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, race 5 of 25; starting time: 5:30 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed Channel.

Sun., Apr. 26, Sprint Cup Aaron's 499, race 9 of 36; starting 1 p.m. (EDT); TV: FOX.

Racing trivia question: Who will AJ Allmendinger be driving for in 2010?

Last week's question: Who does Clint Bowyer drive for? Answer. He drives the No. 33 Richard Childress Chevrolet in the Cup Series.

You may contact the Racing Reporter at: hodgesnews@ earthlink.net.

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