2009-09-24 / Sports

Martin Wins At New Hampshire

By Gerald Hodges THE RACING REPORTER

Mark Martin
LOUDON, N.H. - Mark Martin is off to a good start in this year's Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, after winning Sunday's Sylvania 300, the first of 10 Chase races.

There were three late cautions and restarts, and each time, Martin pulled away from the other cars. The last restart came with just three laps remaining in the 300-lap race, and pitted Martin against the polesitter, Juan Montoya, who finished third.

"Alan Gustafson (Martin's crew chief) is the man," said Martin. "He's the one that won this race. This is a dream come true. Pinch me, I'm sure I'm sleeping."

It was Martin's fifth win of the season, and he now has a 35- point lead in Chase points.

Denny Hamlin, last week's winner at Richmond passed Montoya on the last lap to finish second.

"We had a good car and several times we were as good as Mark, but he drove a great race," said Hamlin.

Montoya appeared to be sore after not gaining the lead from Martin on the last restart.

"Uh, it was good, but Martin just screwed me on the restart. He stopped his car on the apex and I liked to have run into him. I have no idea. I could have pushed him out of the way.

"Next time I don't know, maybe I won't wreck him, but I will push him out of the way."

Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10 finishers.

Tony Stewart developed a loose wheel midway in the race, and had a lengthy pit stop while crewmembers replaced a wheelstud. He wound up 14th.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running fourth with 18 laps to go, when David Reutimann slipped and bumped Earnhardt's No. 88.

"The 00 (Reutimann) got loose in the corner and came up into the side of my car, knocking me into the wall," said Earnhardt. "We had a good car, but when you're racing hard, that's going to happen."

Earnhardt finished 35th.

Jeff Gordon was not able to run with the leaders and finished 15th.

Carl Edwards did lead a few laps, but he had handling problems late in the race and finished 16th.

Kasey Kahne only completed 66 laps and dropped to 12th in the Chase.

Chase contenders after 1 of 10: 1. Martin-5230, 2. Johnson- 5195, 3. Hamlin-5195, 4. Montoya 5175, 5. Kurt Busch-5165, 6. Stewart-5156, 7. Newman- 5151, 8. Vickers-5140, 9. Biffle- 5138, 10. J. Gordon-5128, 11. Edwards 5120, 12. Kahne-5069

Kyle Busch wins New Hampshire truck race

Top-10 Truck leaders after 19 of 25; 1. Hornaday-3055, 2. Crafton-2838, 3. Skinner-2809, 4. Scott-2608, 5. Braun-2515, 6. Bodine 2480, 7. Sauter-2452, 8. Crawford-2441, 9. Starr-2434, 10. Compton-2423

Brian Vickers is already a winner

Brian Vickers rallied from 17th and 193 points out of 12th, to make this year's 12-driver Chase. During the last race before the chase, Vickers gained the 12th-position by just eight points over Kyle Busch.

Vickers only win came at Michigan International Speedway last month.

"Running like that, you're just constantly pushing yourself - it can be exhausting at times," Vickers said. "The guys at the shop are always just pushing, pushing and pushing, working long hours. We've just got to learn to pace ourselves and make sure that we can continue that for the next nine races.

"We've been preparing, we've been building cars. In a lot of ways, we've been preparing as much or more than they have because we already were in the Chase. We've been pushing hard and working long hours and building cars already, and we're going to roll that right into the Chase."

While the team is tired, Vickers said not only will momentum help the team but the desire to achieve will carry them through the Chase.

"That competitive fire is going to outweigh the fact that we're exhausted," Vickers said. "Of course everyone's exhausted. We are, but everyone in this sport is. This is a very long season. We have one of the longest seasons of any sport, and it's draining.

"But you've got to want it. You've got to want it bad, and I know we do."

Is Stewart sweet on Danica Patrick?

There has been lots of talk about Indy-star, Danica Patrick joining a NASCAR team. Two weeks ago, Roger Penske, who fields three Cup teams said he could not fit her into his organization.

Last week Tony Stewart discussed the upcoming Chase for the Cup on the Dan Patrick Show, and also the possibility on whether he will ask Patrick to join his team next year.

Dan asked Stewart if he had plans to hire Danica Patrick as a driver for the 2010 season.

"I have not made her an offer," Stewart said. "The one thing I have done is spend some time talking to her."

Stewart said that the two of them have discussed the possibility of her joining his organization, but he thinks she should start in the Nationwide Series instead of Sprint Cup.

Since Stewart doesn't have a Truck Series or Nationwide Series team, that might be a problem.

Hey Tony, go ahead and hire her. If it doesn't work out, do what Ray Evernham did with his former driver, Erin Crocker. Marry her. You could do lots worse.

Weekend racing: The Sprint Cup and Nationwide teams are at Dover for their second event of the year. The Camping World Trucks go west to Las Vegas.

Sat., Sept. 26, Nationwide Series Dover 200, race 28 of 35; starting time: 3 p.m. (EDT); TV: ESPN2.

Sat., Sept. 26, Camping World Las Vegas 350, race 20 of 25; starting time: 9 p.m. (EDT); TV: Speed.

Sun, Sept. 27, Sprint Cup Dover 400, race 28 of 36; starting time: 1 p.m. (EDT); TV: ABC.

Racing trivia question: Which driver has the most Nationwide Series wins?

Last week's question: Who was the youngest NASCAR driver to win a Cup championship? Answer. Bill Rexford, the 1950 champion. He was 23 at the time.

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

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