Martin Geared Up For 50th Running of the Daytona 500 After strong runs in last two Daytona 500s, veteran hoping third time is a charm DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2008) -- Mark Martin has led 45 laps in his last two Daytona 500 starts and...
Martin Geared Up For 50th Running of the Daytona 500
After strong runs in last two Daytona 500s, veteran hoping third time is a charm
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 13, 2008) -- Mark Martin has led 45 laps in his last two Daytona 500 starts and has four top-six finishes in the last six 'Great American Races.' However, for years the wily veteran described Daytona International Speedway as the 'World Center of Pain', a slight play of words for the 2.5-mile superspeedway that is often referred to as the 'World's Center of Speed.'
"It just seemed like nothing could go right for us at Daytona," said Martin, who has never won a NASCAR points race at Daytona. "I don't know how many times we had a strong car and would run out of gas, lose an engine or get caught up in some wreck that we just couldn't avoid."
"It could really be frustrating at the time," added Martin, who is a native of Daytona Beach. "But that's racing. You really don't pick the races that you win, and to be perfectly honest, I feel very blessed that I've been able to win the ones that I have."
Martin, who boasts 35 Sprint Cup wins during his illustrious NASCAR career, is still looking for that elusive Daytona 500 victory. Everyone remembers last year's dramatic and controversial finish that saw Martin come up just a couple feet short of Kevin Harvick at the finish line, as a melee of cars crashed behind them.
Martin led 26 of the final 27 laps of that race and turned in what many have called the best driving performance of his career. Two years ago in 2006, Martin enjoyed one of the best 500 runs of his career, powering his way to the lead and heading the pack for 19 laps before a mishap on pit road relegated him to a 12th-place finish.
Despite the fact that many would say it is far from his strong suit of racing, Martin does boasts top-six finishes in four of the last six Daytona 500s. In the two where he did not, he lost an engine on lap seven in 2004 - in what may have been his stoutest 500 car to date - and the 12th -place finish in 2006 where he lead 19 laps.
However, Martin knows that history and streaks mean little in the world of NASCAR racing.
"We have had a couple of really good runs in the past couple of years," said Martin. "Obviously last season is something that I'll never forget. We had a new team and it was a new car and we went into that race and gave it all we had. I'm still sorry that I came up just a little short for that team and all of the soldiers out there that we represent on that U.S. Army Car."
"However, the truth is there isn't anything different that I could have done," added Martin. "I did what I could and played the hand that was there. We actually were in really good shape there on the last lap.
"I knew the top line was coming, but I had the fastest car in the race right behind me (the No. 5 of Kyle Busch) and he was pretty much locked into pushing me. I really liked our chances there for a second, but when Kyle spun out I lost my pusher and it was just a race to the end. We came up a little short on result, but I'm telling you the effort was there for sure."
While he has yet to win a points race at Daytona, Martin has visited victory lane four times at the famous speedway, twice in the International Race of Champions Series, once in the Craftsman Truck Series and once in the all-star Budweiser Shootout. He would love nothing more than to add to that list of appearances this Sunday, when he makes his regular season debut in the No. 8 U.S. Army Chevrolet of Dale Earnhardt Inc. The run will be Martin's 24th start in the Daytona 500.
"Of course it would mean a lot," said Martin. "We have a strong car for the race on Sunday and I'm excited about going into this week with Tony Gibson and this U.S. Army Team. But a lot has to come together just to be in that kind of position at the end of the race. I do think that we have a good enough car to compete and I'm excited about what he have going on with at the No. 8 car. We are just going to go in there and give it all we have and see what happens."