BROOKLYN, Mich. – The most surprised person to find Mark Martin in Victory Lane at Michigan International Speedway was the driver himself.
The 50-year-old NASCAR star has run well but has had to deal with considerable bad luck this season. It looked like more of the same Sunday when the battery in his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet began to fail before the halfway mark in the LifeLock 400 Sprint Cup race.
Martin turned off everything in the car that he could, nursing it as best he could. Then he realized the race was going to be a fuel economy run.
“I always, always come up short in those gas things,” Martin said. “I’m probably about 2 and 25 in these things.”
Make that 3 and 25 now.
Martin saved just enough gas to hang on for his third victory of the season and the 38th of his Cup career.
Jimmie Johnson dominated most of the LifeLock 400 and took the lead from Greg Biffle six laps from the end as Martin watched the duel from third place.
Johnson, the three-time reigning Cup champion, ran out of gas two laps from the finish, giving the lead to Biffle. But he also ran out of gas as the final trip around the 2-mile oval began, clearing the way for Martin to drive to the front.
His car also was left with an empty tank on the last lap, but Martin was able to coast to the finish line almost three seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Gordon.
“My car was good, but I couldn’t run their pace and save gas,” Martin said. “When Jimmie ran out, I said, ‘Heck, we’re this close. I’m going to run hard. With three quarters of a lap (left), what can happen?’ ”
Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya and series points leader Tony Stewart. Last year’s race winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 14th.
Johnson led 145 of the 200 laps. He managed to get his car to the finish but wound up 22nd, the last car on the lead lap.
Tony Pedregon raced to his second straight Funny Car win, beating Ashley Force Hood in the final of the United Association NHRA SuperNationals in Englishtown, N.J.
Top Fuel star Larry Dixon picked up his fifth win in Englishtown, Jeg Coughlin won the Pro Stock competition, and Craig Treble topped the Pro Stock Motorcycle field in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Pedregon powered his Chevy Impala SS to a 4.246-second run at 260.56 mph for his 42nd career win and second in Englishtown. Pedregon also moved past points leader Ron Capps to take the top spot in the Funny Car points standings.
24 Hours of Le Mans
Peugeot driver Marc Gene of Spain won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, ending Audi’s five-year domination of the race in Le Mans, France.
The diesel-powered Peugeot No. 9 was one of the few cars to have a trouble-free run in the world’s most famous endurance race.
Gene, David Brabham of Britain and Alexander Wurz of Austria completed 382 laps in 24 hours, one lap more than the Peugeot No. 8 driven by French trio Sebastien Bourdais, Franck Montagny and Stephane Sarrazin.
Defending champions Allan McNish, Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen of Denmark finished third.
Truck champ injured
Reigning NASCAR truck champion Johnny Benson is in serious but stable condition after a crash during a SuperModified race.
The driver was starting his second lap when he collided with another car Saturday night at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich. His car slammed into the wall and erupted into flames.
Benson, of Grand Rapids, Mich., reportedly had multiple injuries, including burns and broken ribs.