The huge crowd erupted when Mark Martin’s CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet passed first Johnson, then Biffle to grab his third win of the year.
BROOKLYN, MICH. — There’s an old saying in NASCAR racing that goes like this, “To finish first…… first you have to finish.”
Mark Martin has heard that saying many times before and never has it meant any more.
While Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle were running out of gas with just one lap remaining, Martin cruised by to pick up his third win of the season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The 50-year-old Arkansas native, who started 32nd in the 43-car field, moved into contention in the final quarter of the race and saved fuel while Biffle and Johnson battled it out up front.
Martin, one of the most popular drivers on the circuit, and certainly the pride of the over-50 crowd, calmly hit his marks and ran his race down the stretch, patiently waiting for the frontrunners to falter.
It happened with just over a lap remaining in the 200-lap, LifeLock 400 event at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway.
First Johnson ran out in the tri-oval short of the start-finish line, then Biffle’s Ford sputtered going into turn one.
The huge crowd erupted when Martin’s CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet passed first Johnson, then Biffle to grab his third win of the year. He won earlier in the season at Phoenix and Darlington, much to the delight of his peers. Martin is one of the most respected members of the NASCAR industry.
Finishing second behind Martin was four-time champion Jeff Gordon. Denny Hamlin was next and Carl Edwards was fourth. Biffle wound up fifth and Juan Pablo Montoya brought home a sixth-place finish. Two-time champion Tony Stewart was seventh and Kurt Busch eighth. Brian Vickers and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top 10 finishers. Johnson wound up 22nd after dominating most of the afternoon. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., continued to struggle, finishing 14th.
It was cool and overcast when the green flag waved and Kyle Busch assumed a familiar position by streaking ahead of pole winner Vickers before they made it to the second turn. At 10 laps, Johnson had passed Busch for the lead. Vickers was third. Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Montoya were next in line.
Joe Nemechek and Tony Raines pulled into the garage before 30 laps had been completed but Johnson took his Chevrolet to a commanding lead of more than six seconds. Kyle maintained second with brother Kurt third. They were followed by Kahne, Stewart, Biffle, Montoya, Vickers, Bowyer and Matt Kenseth. Martin, Carl Edwards and Gordon were moving towards the top 10. Martin went from 32nd to 15th; Edwards from 29th to 16th and Gordon from 27th to 17th.
Once teams had made their first green flag pit stops, Johnson resumed the lead with Kahne, Kyle Busch and Biffle in tow. Kurt Busch was fifth and Stewart sixth. Johnson was obviously the car to beat at this point in the race. Earnhardt, Jr. qualified 30th fastest and had moved to 18th after 50 laps.
Within a few laps, Biffle had moved to
second ahead of Kahne. The first caution period of the balmy afternoon
came out on Lap 73 when debris cluttered the track. On the double-file,
shootout-style restart, Johnson was still the leader as the field
bunched up in side-by-side fashion to go at it again. Johnson
immediately jumped ahead of Biffle and Montoya held the third position.
Kahne was next followed by Kurt Busch, Kenseth, Stewart, who lost time
in the pits, Kyle Busch, Earnhardt and Edwards.
At halfway (100 laps), Johnson had a three-second lead over Biffle which he held for most of the race as the laps wound down.
Stewart holds on to the points lead ith 47 points over Gordon in second. Defending champion Johnson is in third followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Edwards, Biffle, Martin, Kyle Busch, Hamlin, Kenseth, and Jeff Burton.