RECORD BREAKING WIN FOR MARTIN IN CROWN ROYAL IROC SERIES DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 18, 2005 -- Mark Martin's bid for a record-breaking fifth Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) got off to a great start in the series-opener at...
RECORD BREAKING WIN FOR MARTIN IN CROWN ROYAL IROC SERIES
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 18, 2005 -- Mark Martin's bid for a record-breaking fifth Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) got off to a great start in the series-opener at Daytona International Speedway on Friday night. Martin passed defending IROC champion Matt Kenseth on a restart with four laps to go to claim the checkered flag and became the winningest driver in the series history with 12 victories, eclipsing his tie with the late Dale Earnhardt and Al Unser Jr.
Martin Truex Jr., the 2004 NASCAR Busch Series champion, finished second, followed by NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series titlist Bobby Hamilton. Kenseth and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Buddy Rice rounded out the top five, while pole-sitter Sebastien Bourdais of the Champ Car World Series was caught in a wreck on lap 36 and finished last in the 12-car field.
The Crown Royal IROC Series is an invitational racing series that matches 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars to determine a champion of champions. Daytona was the first of four 100-mile races with points awarded for finishing positions, with the series champion earning $1 million. Martin, the 22-year NASCAR veteran, who announced in October that this season would be his last year racing in Nextel Cup, reflected on the importance of competing in the Crown Royal IROC series after the win.
"I had a sad, sinking feeling before the race tonight that this might be soon coming to an end for me," he said. "This experience means as much or more to me than anything else I've done. I was so excited when I pulled into victory lane that I wanted to do a back flip like Carl Edwards does but I'm just too old.
"I think this (IROC) series is incredibly important to the drivers. And if you do good here, then I think your stock goes up for wherever you take that trophy home."
Starting from the 10th position, Kenseth took the lead on lap 6 and held it for the next 31 of the 40-lap race with IndyCar Series driver, Helio Castroneves on his bumper throughout. With four laps to go, Martin, in third, made a move below Castroneves for second creating a logjam as drivers scrambled to protect positions, resulting in a five-car accident ending the night for Castroneves, Steve Kinser, Scott Pruett, Kurt Busch and Bourdais.
The non-stock car drivers -- Castroneves, Kinser, Pruett and Bourdais -- each had strong races until the lap-36 wreck. On the restart, Kenseth and World of Outlaws Sprint Car driver Danny Lasoski battled for position, allowing Truex to dice his way to second place in his IROC debut.
"The king of IROC (Martin) won the race, and I'll finish second to him anytime he wants," said an elated Truex.
Race two of the four-race Crown Royal International Race of Champions will take place at Texas Motor Speedway Friday, April 15.