Martin thinks he has a car that can win 500 “That was awesome guys…we can win, we can win the Daytona 500,” said an energized Mark Martin as he pulled his No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet into the garage after finishing sixth in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s just a pleasure to drive this car for the U.S. Army team and to work with these guys -- and to run good is just a bonus,” added Martin. “The car was really fast, did well on the long runs and handled well in the corners. That wasn’t a win, but I believe that if we can make our car handle that good on Sunday, I think we can have a shot to win the Daytona 500. "
Martin started the race 10th and drafted his way all the way to fourth in just the first two laps. He eventually was shuffled out of the draft and moved back to 11th by Lap 13 of 70. He was running 10th when the mandatory caution was issued on Lap 20.
After the break Martin moved in and out of the top 10 for the next several laps. He radioed the team on Lap 39 that his U.S. Army Chevy was good enough to win with the right mix of help. However, Martin would struggle finding the drafting help he needed to move back through the field as he settled in at eight place for the next several laps.
“We didn’t have a ton of help -- we almost got wrecked there early and several of the fast cars that could have helped got around us,” explained Martin. “The car was fast enough to get up there and make some noise, but we just couldn’t find the right partners to help us make that happen."
The Army Chevy was still running in eighth when the night’s second caution was called for debris on Lap 53. Martin came down pit road for tires and a slight wedge adjustment. He held his position at eighth when the field returned to green with 12 laps remaining.
Martin remained solid, but a near run-in with Boris Said almost wrecked the Army Chevy. He lost several positions and fell all the way to 16th with only four laps remaining. However, Martin’s No. 01 machine was strong on this night and was able to power its way back through the field, avoiding a multicar accident on the final lap and bringing home a sixth-place finish.
“We almost had a big wreck with Boris (Said) there at the end with five to go and we went to the back and I thought that was it. But we could just roll through the corners so well and pass cars without much help."
“I had a blast. I’m living large right now,” added Martin “This was just a great way to start off with the U.S. Army Chevy, Ginn Racing, Ryan (crew chief, Pemberton). I’m really more encouraged right now than I even was coming in. I know that we have a lot of work to do and we’d like to be faster, but with a car that handles like that, we have a shot at the 500 and that’s what we all really want. This is the most fun I’ve had in a long time.”