Charlotte: Mark Martin preview

Man On A Mission: Martin Would Not Be Denied 2002 Coca-Cola 600 Veteran put on a 'no bull' performance in '02 Memorial Day Weekend Classic CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 20, 2008) -- As the laps final laps wound down on the 2002 Coca-Cola 600, Mark ...

Man On A Mission: Martin Would Not Be Denied 2002 Coca-Cola 600
Veteran put on a 'no bull' performance in '02 Memorial Day Weekend Classic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (May 20, 2008) -- As the laps final laps wound down on the 2002 Coca-Cola 600, Mark Martin quickly maneuvered around lapped traffic as he led the field at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The atmosphere of the moment was frantic for the race leader, but Martin's driving was as smooth as ever as he pedaled through the turns and traffic while then-teammate Matt Kenseth attempted to close the gap.

In the end Martin would indeed hold off Kenseth, and the veteran driver would collect his 33rd Cup victory -- his fourth at Lowe's Motor Speedway and his first in NASCAR's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600.

"That was a big one," said Martin. "We hadn't had the best of years in 2001 and I don't think we had won in seventy-something races. That was a No-Bull 5 Million Race and when we qualified for it the guys kind of circled it on the schedule and said 'we are going to go win that one.'

"We just really wanted that race," added Martin. "You can't pick the races you win, but we came real close there. I knew Matt was fast and I knew I didn't have any time to waste there at the end. The guys put me out in front and I was able to hang on. It was a real team effort. It felt good and we won the Winston No-Bull Million Dollar bonus and made a millionaire out of a fan that night. It was just a really cool night."

This Sunday night, Martin will try to accomplish the same feat by winning the Coca-Cola 600 almost seven years to the day he held off Kenseth for the dramatic victory in 2002. This time around it would be special for a number of reasons for Martin. First, Martin now drives the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet and winning on Memorial Day Weekend in the Army car would carry added significance. In addition, Martin's car will feature a special Salute to the Troops paint scheme this weekend at Lowe's.

It would also be Martin's first win in Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s No. 8 Chevrolet and his first win in 74 races. His 2002 Coca-Cola 600 victory broke a string of 73 races without a win. Ironically, it would also be the No. 8 team's first win in 73 races.

"Every win is big," said Martin. "But there are certain races that it's a big deal to win. I've never won a Daytona 500, but I've won a Southern 500 and a Coca-Cola 600 and those are special. If we could get another win this weekend for all the Soldiers, everyone at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and all of the fans it would mean a lot for sure."

- credit: dei

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Matt Kenseth , Mark Martin