Darlington: Mark Martin race report

Martin Finishes 14th at Darlington DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 13, 2007) -- Darlington Raceway is known as the track "Too Tough to Tame" and Mark Martin spent most of the day battling the daunting 1.366-mile oval with the Car of Tomorrow (COT). But...

Martin Finishes 14th at Darlington

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 13, 2007) -- Darlington Raceway is known as the track "Too Tough to Tame" and Mark Martin spent most of the day battling the daunting 1.366-mile oval with the Car of Tomorrow (COT). But in the end, Martin and the 01 U.S. Army team battled back to a respectable 14th-place finish in Sunday's rain-delayed Nextel Cup event

"This was a really tough race," said Martin. "Though we fought the COT all weekend, I am really proud of the U.S. Army team's effort for never giving up. We kept working on the car and the over-the-wall guys had some great pit stops under pressure. Like our soldiers we never quit. We take great pride in wearing the Army uniform."

Despite missing three races as part of his limited Ginn Racing schedule, Martin is 15th in driver points while the Army team is ranked sixth in owner points.

Following a sub par performance in Friday's final practice session, the team, headed by crew chief Ryan Pemberton,changed the setup on the car. The changes obviously worked as Martin wasted little time moving through the field in Sunday's race.

Starting 37th, the veteran driver powered his No. 01 U.S. Army Chevy Impala SS into the top 30 by Lap 33 of 367. He broke inside the top 25 on Lap 48 and passed former teammate Matt Kenseth on Lap 80 for the 20th position. Martin moved all the way to 15th by Lap 96 and remained inside the top 15 for the majority of the race from that point on.

The No. 01 U.S. Army pit crew was stellar all day, advancing Martin five positions and into the top 10 with a 12.3-second stop on Lap 259. However the handling on the No. 01 Chevy Impala seemed to go away on the ensuing run and Martin was unable to keep the car inside the top 10.

Martin stayed out after the races' ninth caution and restarted in fifth position on Lap 249. Unfortunately the car was unable to run with the leaders and Martin settled back into the field as the laps wound down. He was able to hang on to a top-15 finishing position.

The Army team will take a week off from point racing when they compete in Saturday night's Nextel All-Star Challenge at Lowe's Motor Speedway near Charlotte, before returning to Lowe's the following week for the famed Coca-Cola 600, an event Martin won in 2002.

The next two weeks will also be a break from the COT, with teams running traditional cars at the two Lowe's Motor Speedway events.

"I'm really looking forward to Charlotte," said Martin. "I love that race track and we had a great car there at the test last week. It's going to be a nice break from the COT."

-credit: gr

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Series NASCAR-CUP