Bristol: Mark Martin preview

BRISTOL WINNER: Martin is a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner at Bristol Motor Speedway. In August 1993, Martin started from the pole position and led 67 laps en route to his first victory at the short track. Five years later, he led...

BRISTOL WINNER: Martin is a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner at Bristol Motor Speedway. In August 1993, Martin started from the pole position and led 67 laps en route to his first victory at the short track. Five years later, he led 190 laps before scoring his second Bristol win.

POLE SITTER: Martin has earned nine pole positions at Bristol, which is more than any other active driver and ties legendary Cale Yarborough for first all-time. It's also more than double the amount Martin has earned at any other active track. Martin swept both Sprint Cup poles at the Tennessee bullring last season and earned four straight in 1995-96. Martin's next Sprint Cup pole will be the 50th of his career and will place him eighth on the all-time pole winner's list.

FANS VOTED: Last week Martin gave NASCAR fans the chance to vote online for the song he would choose for Bristol's driver introductions on Sunday. Martin offered three songs: "Luv 4 Dem Gangsta'z" by Eazy-E, "If You Want Blood" by AC/DC and "Where Are We Runnin'" by Lenny Kravitz. The winning song will be announced prior to driver intros on Sunday.

MARTIN AT BRISTOL: In 42 Cup starts at Bristol Motor Speedway, Martin has posted two wins, 16 top-five finishes and 23 top-10s. Martin has led 1,199 laps there, second only to the 1,723 laps he's led at Dover (Del.) International Speedway.

LAST YEAR AT BRISTOL: Martin earned the pole position for both Sprint Cup races at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2009. He finished sixth in the spring race. In his August outing, which also happened to be his 1,000th career NASCAR start, Martin led 240 laps and finished second.

LOOP STATISTICS: Martin earned the best driver rating in the most recent Sprint Cup race at Bristol. Martin started from the pole, led 240 laps and never fell outside the top 15 to earn a rating of 139.6 out of a possible 150.

HISTORICAL WIN: Crew chief Alan Gustafson led the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team to victory at Bristol on March 25, 2007. The win marked the first victory for NASCAR's new car, the 600th victory for Chevrolet and the 200th NASCAR win for Hendrick Motorsports.

NO. 5 TEAM AT BRISTOL: Since 2005, the team has earned one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s at the short track under the direction of Gustafson.

POINT STANDINGS: Martin is seventh in the Sprint Cup Series standings entering Bristol. At this time last year, he was 34th. In four races this season, he has scored two top-five finishes, two top-10s, one pole and led 16 laps.

STRONG HENDRICK START: After four 2010 races, each of the four Hendrick Motorsports teams are ranked within the top 13 in the Sprint Cup standings, marking a first for the organization at this point in the season. At 8.75, the team also holds its second-best average points position after four races since expanding to four cars in 2002. In 2006, Hendrick Motorsports had four cars in the top 14 with an average standing of 7.25.

CHASSIS CHOICE: Gustafson has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-523 for the race in Bristol this weekend. Martin drove this chassis to a fourth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway last month. This is also the same chassis that Martin used to win at Michigan International Speedway last June.

HENDRICK AT BRISTOL: Hendrick Motorsports has eight wins, 40 top-five finishes, 73 top-10s and 10 pole positions in 52 events (159 starts) at Bristol. Martin earned the team's most recent pole position last August.

TOP-10 TURNAROUND: Hendrick Motorsports posted strong results following the three events last season where its cars did not record at least one top-10 finish. In 2009, Hendrick cars did not score a top-10 in the Daytona 500, the 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway or at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. In the races immediately after, Jeff Gordon finished second at Fontana, Calif., Jimmie Johnson won at Dover, Del., and Gordon was the runner-up at Brooklyn, Mich.

HONORARY CREW MEMBERS: Hendrick Motorsports partner CARQUEST has extended a special invitation to Ron Hope and his son Brian Hope of Lexington, Ky., to assist the No. 5 team as honorary crew members for this weekend's race in Bristol. Ron Hope owns C.A.R.S., a company specializing in advice and support through reconditioning professionals for auto auctions.

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DOING LUNCH: Martin will eat lunch and participate in a question-and-answer session with his fans at the Florence (S.C.) Civic Center on Wednesday. Martin, the defending race winner, will be in town to help promote the May 8 Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. The track opened the event to the public, but reached capacity in a little more than 24 hours.

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MARK MARTIN, DRIVER, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON HAVING THE FANS PICK HIS DRIVER INTRODUCTION SONG.): "I was having a hard time deciding between a few songs. I wanted something that the fans would like; that they would have fun hearing. But I wanted it to be 'me,' too, ya know? A song that I like and get pumped up to. I know what the winner is, and I'm happy with it. It could've been any of those three, and I would have been happy. Just hope all the fans in the stands like it, too."

MARTIN (ON HIS POLE RUNS AT BRISTOL LAST YEAR.): "Both times we went to Bristol last year, the guys gave me an awesome race car. We were fast right off the truck. I went out there and both times we were crazy fast. I remember thinking, 'This is crazy. I don't know how many more times I can do that to my heart!' (LAUGHS.) But it's fun. And it's so rewarding to see the guys faces when we're at the top of the chart. The second race last year, it was a really big deal for me, personally. I didn't realize it at the time, but after intros, and it being my 1,000th start, and the way the fans reacted, and the music, it was just all really amazing. I don't get choked up often, but did that night. It was incredible. We finished second, didn't get the win, but it was a great race. Nearly perfect."

MARTIN (ON TESTING AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY NEXT WEEK.): "Any track time I get with my guys is a good time. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and I are so beyond where we were at this point last year. Our communication has grown stronger, and at this point last year, we were still so new to each other. When we get testing time, we really get to hash the details out and focus on what I want out of the car and how the car is reacting. We've been wanting to work on that mile-and-a-half program, so I'm anxious to get out there and see what Alan and the guys can do."

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON HOW THE NEW SAFER BARRIERS, WHICH ELIMINATE SOME OF THE SURFACE EXITING TURNS 2 AND 4, WILL AFFECT RACING AT BRISTOL.): "The number I've heard thrown around is three feet less room on the straightaways, which there really aren't straightaways at Bristol because you're cornering the whole time. I think it's going to be a significant change. You can't slide it up to the wall, especially on the front straightaway as the guys have always done in the past. You're going to be about three feet shy there. So, I would say there's going to be some guys with right-side damage, a little more than normal. That's three feet less room to pass. It's going to be interesting. We'll still set up the car the same way, but it will affect how the driver's drive around the track for sure. When you're trying to pass someone, losing three feet of room is big."

GUSTAFSON (ON HOW IMPORTANT PIT ROAD SELECTION IS AT BRISTOL.): "Bristol and Martinsville (Va.) are the two most important tracks for pit road selection. It's definitely a premium. It can be a huge advantage or a huge disadvantage if you don't qualify well and don't get a good choice. Frontstretch versus backstretch isn't that big of a deal, but you want a box that's easy to get into or easy to get out of. One of the four corner stalls is ideal, of course."

GUSTAFSON (ON WHAT HE'S LOOKING FORWARD TO LEARNING DURING THE CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY TEST SESSION.): "I look forward to learning about the spoiler, but more so than that, we've not been that good on high-banked mile-and-a-half tracks. We need some time to improve our high-banked mile-and-a-half program. I'm looking forward to getting over there and working on that. It's going to be fun."

GUSTAFSON (ON MARK MARTIN'S TASTE IN MUSIC.): "Mark continuously cracks me up with his taste in music. Eazy-E? Who would have picked Mark Martin to like Eazy-E? That's some old-school rap right there. When I saw his three choices for his intro song, I just laughed because none of them are anything that a race fan would think Mark would like. But it's just him. I'll be anxious to hear what song the fans picked for him. I probably won't know until intros either, so I'll be just as surprised as everyone else."

-source: hendrick motorsports

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Series NASCAR-CUP