Martin Wins 400 At Chicagoland Speedway

Joliet, IL – In a race that resembled a Saturday night short-track fight, Mark Martin, the 50-year-old poster boy for the AARP generation, gave team owner Rick Hendrick an early birthday present with a hard-fought win in the LifeLock 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Chicagoland Speedway.

Martin, who survived four double-file restarts in the final 43 laps, won for the fourth time in 2009 and the 39th time in his Cup career.

“Well, the double-file restarts are really here to mess up the best car and that is what makes it exciting for the fans,” said Martin, who led the race four times for 195 laps, but lost the front spot for 27 laps to Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson on one of those restarts at lap 223. “He (Johnson) was strong on the restarts. Our car was a lot better after about 20 laps and a little bit better after five. It didn’t love restarts. We got shuffled back to third there on the restart.”

Johnson looked like he was shot out of a cannon after choosing to restart on the outside on lap 232 following a caution for a multi-car skirmish caused when Paul Menard, running a strong top-10 race, crashed heavily in turn one. But yet another restart on lap 250 was what Martin needed to regain the lead, with a little help from some rough driving by Denny Hamlin and Brian Vickers, coupled with a three-wide maneuver involving Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Kurt Busch.

“I saw the opening when those two guys got together and I went. When I got in front of them that last time, I thought there ain’t no way anybody is going to catch us, said Martin whose Chevrolet held off another teammate, Jeff Gordon, to give their boss his early birthday gift.
Gordon led several top-10 cars into the pits for tires on the lap 246 caution, while Martin and most other front-runners stayed out for better track position.

“To start 32nd, and work our way to third looked like an awesome night. (Then) it was an incredible call that (crew chief) Steve Letarte made… It was four tires and then it was a battle maneuvering through traffic with cars slipping and sliding all over the place,” said the four-time Cup champion.

But one final restart with four laps remaining brought the less-than-capacity crowd of 70,000 to their feet, and gave Gordon another shot at Martin.”Mark went a little early and I just spun the tires when I tried to get going. Kasey Kahne was really strong on the outside. He was really strong on the outside and I had to fight hard to get by him for second. I didn’t know that was the last lap. I thought I had another one to catch him.”

Martin, who started the event in 14th spot, led Gordon, Kahne, Tony Stewart (who started 32nd) and Hamlin to the checkered flag, was also a bit confused as to what lap he was on.

“We won, right?” Martin asked his crew chief, Alan Gustafson over the radio. “That was fun. What can I say? Four wins-that’s crazy.” And so was the restart-filled race.

NOTES: The 1-2 finish by Martin and Gordon repeated their finish at Michigan International Speedway back in June, and won a $1million sweepstakes for Richard and Donna Musgrave of New Castle, CO, who correctly predicted that finish at MIS, and then won the prize when it happened again here on Saturday night. The contest was promoted by the race sponsor,… Martin’s win moved him into 11th-place in the Chase for the Sprint Cup… Kyle Busch endured his worst race of the season. His Gibbs Toyota was beaten up and leaking fumes into the cockpit when the ill-handling Toyota finally expired and crashed in a streak of oil into the turn four barrier… Martin’s fourth season win moved him within one of Harry Gant’s record five over-50 wins achieved during the 1991 season… Rick Hendrick celebrated the 1-2 team sweep as his 60th birthday approached on Sunday… Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Joey Logano recorded his 14th consecutive race where he has been running at the finish. He has dropped out of only one of the 19 Sprint Cup races this season… Only two caution flags for nine laps were recorded during the first half of the race, but the dreaded double-file restart saw five yellow flags for 21 laps during the final half… Tony Stewart leads the point standings by 175 points over Jeff Gordon… Pole-winner Brian Vickers was contending for the win with Martin and Gordon when a late-race tangle with Denny Hamlin dropped him to a 7th-place finish.

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