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Thursday, July 30, 2009

“Bionic” Martin Showing Increased Strength

Mark Martin and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono this weekend. The 2.5 mile track is very similar to Indy and might spell bad news for the other drivers that are trying to make the Chase for the Cup Championship to be crowned Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya was on the verge of making history at the Brickyard in his bid to become the only driver to win both the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400. The rejuvenated Mark Martin wanted to make history of his own by becoming the oldest driver to win a race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Mark Martin took the lead at Indy after Juan Pablo Montoya was penalized for speeding on pit road. Martin started from the pole position – becoming the oldest to do so in a major auto race at Indianapolis – and led the first four laps. Martin gave up the lead to his Hendrick Motorsports teammate and eventual winner Jimmie Johnson following a restart with 24 laps remaining. Martin chiseled Johnson’s lead down to just .2-seconds but Martin’s Chevrolet simply could not pass teammate Johnson in the closing laps, who Martin later nicknamed Superman. Jimmie Johnson had a nickname of his own for NASCAR’s elder statesman.

"I don't know what to call him," Johnson said. "Bionic Man or something. I wouldn't know. I got him on the restart and he put a ton of pressure on us.

"You can't win if you wreck," Martin said following his second-place finish at Indy. "I was driving as fast as I could without wrecking, man.”

Although he relinquished the lead to Johnson due to NASCAR’s reintroduction of double-file restarts, Martin still likes the rule and agrees with the purpose.

"I think the restarts did their job again today," Martin said after the race. "You can say what you want, but I've had some days this year. I'd love to have won the race. But I'm very grateful to have had a chance at it.”

Now he's one step closer to locking up a berth in the Chase For The Sprint Cup. Martin climbed two spots to ninth in the standings. And, in typical fashion, Martin did not complain about the potential win that slipped away.

“I got beat. I didn't get her done,” said Martin. “Drove my heart out. Gave it everything I had, but got beat by Superman. It's better than 42nd, man."

Martin heads to Pocono, which has similar characteristics as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in hopes of capturing an elusive first win at Long Pond. Martin is winless at Pocono but has racked up 31 Top 10 finishes and 19 Top 5 results in 45 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at the track. If his drive at Indy was any indication, Martin should be a factor at Pocono and for the rest of the season which culminates during Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 20-22) at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

photo of Martin at Indy courtesy of Jamie Squire, Getty Images Sport

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