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Mark Martin wins Cup race at Phoenix

NASCAR
Sunday, April 19, 2009

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Mark Martin celebrates in Victory Lane for the first time in 97 starts.
Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

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.

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.

Results

FIN

ST CAR DRIVER MAKE SPONSOR PTS/BNS LAPS STATUS
1 1 5 Mark Martin Chevrolet Carquest / Kellogg's 195/10 312 Running
2 6 14 Tony Stewart Chevrolet Office Depot / Old Spice 175/5 312 Running
3 3 2 Kurt Busch Dodge Miller Lite 170/5 312 Running
4 10 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet Lowe's 165/5 312 Running
5 13 16 Greg Biffle Ford 3M 155/0 312 Running
6 12 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota FedEx Office / March for Babies 150/0 312 Running
7 26 1 Martin Truex Jr. Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Tracker 146/0 312 Running
8 8 00 David Reutimann Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 147/5 312 Running
9 35 77 Sam Hornish Jr. Dodge Mobil 1 138/0 312 Running
10 11 99 Carl Edwards Ford Subway 134/0 312 Running
11 28 26 Jamie McMurray Ford Crown Royal 130/0 312 Running
12 36 43 Reed Sorenson Dodge Auto Value / Bumper to Bumper 127/0 312 Running
13 21 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge Budweiser 124/0 312 Running
14 29 47 Marcos Ambrose Toyota Clorox / Kingsford / Bashas' 121/0 312 Running
15 16 31 Jeff Burton Chevrolet Caterpillar 118/0 312 Running
16 30 39 Ryan Newman Chevrolet Haas Automation 120/5 312 Running
17 2 18 Kyle Busch Toyota M&M's 112/0 312 Running
18 19 12 David Stremme Dodge Penske Racing 109/0 311 Running
19 5 83 Brian Vickers Toyota Red Bull 111/5 311 Running
20 38 07 Casey Mears Chevrolet Jack Daniel's 103/0 311 Running
21 31 20 Joey Logano * Toyota The Home Depot 100/0 311 Running
22 14 6 David Ragan Ford UPS 97/0 311 Running
23 7 98 Paul Menard Ford Peak / Menards 94/0 311 Running
24 20 42 Juan Montoya Chevrolet Target 91/0 311 Running
25 4 24 Jeff Gordon Chevrolet DuPont 88/0 311 Running
26 24 33 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet Cheerios / Hamburger Helper 85/0 311 Running
27 17 17 Matt Kenseth Ford Dewalt 82/0 311 Running
28 9 78 Regan Smith Chevrolet Furniture Row Companies 79/0 311 Running
29 42 96 Bobby Labonte Ford Ask.com 81/5 311 Running
30 33 29 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet Shell / Pennzoil 73/0 311 Running
31 15 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet National Guard / Amp Energy 75/5 310 Running
32 40 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge Stanley Tools 67/0 310 Running
33 27 171 David Gilliland Chevrolet American Monster 64/0 310 Running
34 18 82 Scott Speed * Toyota Red Bull 61/0 310 Running
35 25 44 A.J. Allmendinger Dodge Charter Comm. 58/0 309 Running
36 37 36 Scott Riggs Toyota Tommy Baldwin Racing 55/0 307 Running
37 32 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota NAPA 57/5 307 Running
38 41 34 John Andretti Chevrolet Taco Bell 49/0 307 Running
39 23 7 Robby Gordon Toyota Mapei / Menards 46/0 243 Running
40 39 09 Sterling Marlin Dodge Miccosukee Resort & Gaming 43/0 117 Accident
41 22 187 Joe Nemechek Toyota NEMCO Motorsports 40/0 76 Rear Axle
42 34 66 Dave Blaney Toyota Prism Motorsports 37/0 59 Brakes
43 43 73 Tony Raines Dodge Quality Concrete 34/0 56 Brakes

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