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Martin wins California IROC event By Dave Rodman FONTANA, Calif. (May 2, 1998) Three-time True Value Firebird IROC champion Mark Martin grabbed the lead on the 13th of 50 laps from NASCAR Winston Cup rival Jeff Gordon and waltzed to the victory...

Martin wins California IROC event By Dave Rodman

FONTANA, Calif. (May 2, 1998) Three-time True Value Firebird IROC champion Mark Martin grabbed the lead on the 13th of 50 laps from NASCAR Winston Cup rival Jeff Gordon and waltzed to the victory Saturday in Round Two of IROC XXII at the California Speedway.

Martin, of Batesville, Ark., led the final 38 laps of the two-mile speedway and was .225 seconds ahead of runner-up Al Unser Jr. at the finish. He averaged 162.089 mph for 37 minutes and one second. There were four lead changes among five drivers.

Rounding out the top-five were NASCAR Winston Cup drivers Gordon, Terry Labonte and Jeff Burton. Two-time defending NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division champ Randy LaJoie, defending IRL champion Tony Stewart, two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Jarrett, former CART Indy car champion Jimmy Vasser, seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champ Dale Earnhardt, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk and four-time SCCA Trans-Am titlist Tom Kendall filled the rundown of the hand-picked 12-man field who all drove identically-prepared Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am "This is incredible -- I don't know what I've done to deserve this and I'm so honored to be a part of this," said Martin, who won IROC titles in 1994 and 1996-97 and who scored his seventh career IROC victory. "The draft is pretty powerful here on the straightaways. My car was good through the corners, but he (Unser) would get runs on me on the straightaways. I just made sure I was in his way.

"He did a great job and made it a heckuva race. If I had been behind him I never could have passed him. The opportunity to race all these great drivers in equal cars is just a blast."

With the most-laps-led victory, Martin took the lead in the 1998 IROC point standings, 45-38, over Gordon, who won the Daytona IROC opener. Burton, Unser and Labonte round out the top-five in points heading into Round Three of the series, June 13 at the Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn, a facility that is very similar to California. The total IROC purse of $760,000 will be distributed based on points following the season finale July 31 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

LaJoie, who started on the outside of the front row, grabbed the lead at the end of the first lap from pole sitter Kendall. He led the first three laps before Unser assumed the point for four circuits. The race appeared to be a hot one as Gordon marched to the fore and took the lead on lap eight for five tours.

Martin, who has now won an IROC race in each of the past five seasons, drove past Gordon at the end of the 12th lap and, even though Unser dogged his tracks the rest of the way, he was never able to get close enough to make an attempt to pass for the lead.

The race was interrupted by one caution period that occurred when Kendall and Stewart bumped between turns 1 and 2. Kendall spun sideways and was hit in the left front by Luyendyk. Burton also spun in the melee. Kendall, who will drive no less than two NASCAR Winston Cup road races later this season for Team SABCO, suffered the worst damage and finished last, five laps down. All other drivers finished on the lead lap.

Source: NASCAR Online

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Series IROC
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Terry Labonte , Al Unser Jr. , Arie Luyendyk , Jimmy Vasser , Tom Kendall , Mark Martin