Daytona 500: Mark Martin preview

GO DADDY DEBUT: Mark Martin will debut the new black, green and orange No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. In addition to the exhibition event, GoDaddy.com will be the primary sponsor for...

GO DADDY DEBUT: Mark Martin will debut the new black, green and orange No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. In addition to the exhibition event, GoDaddy.com will be the primary sponsor for 20 points-paying NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events this season, including the Feb. 14 Daytona 500.

BACK FOR MORE: Martin returns to the wheel of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this year, coming off one of the most successful seasons of his career. Martin's five wins and 805 laps led in 2009 were his most in a single campaign since 1998. He also earned a career-best seven pole positions last year before finishing second in the Sprint Cup standings for the fifth time in his career.

MARTIN IN THE SHOOTOUT: This Saturday, Martin will make his 22nd career start in the Shootout, the most of any current, full-time Sprint Cup driver. He finished eighth in the 2008 Shootout, his most recent start in the event. Martin qualifies for the 2010 Shootout because he was a 2009 Chase contender as well as the winner of the 1999 Bud Shootout.

50TH START: Martin's 50th points-paying Sprint Cup race at Daytona International Speedway will come in the 2010 Daytona 500. That will tie Daytona with Charlotte Motor Speedway for the most Cup starts Martin has made at a single track. In 49 Daytona starts, he has earned nine top-five finishes and 17 top-10s. The race will be Martin's 26th Daytona 500.

MOST RECENT SPEEDWEEKS: In his Hendrick Motorsports debut last February, Martin qualified on the outside pole for the 2009 Daytona 500. He went on to lead 36 laps of his 60-lap Gatorade Duel before finishing second. Martin's hopes of winning his first career Daytona 500 were washed away, however, by rain showers that ended the race on Lap 152. Martin finished in 16th place.

SETTING A RECORD: Should he take the checkered flag on Feb. 14, Martin would become the oldest driver to win the Daytona 500. Last season, Martin became only the fourth driver older than age 50 to win a Sprint Cup event and only the second driver older than 50 to win multiple times. The veteran driver celebrated his 51st birthday on Jan. 9.

MARTIN IN THE 500: Martin nearly won his first Daytona 500 in 2007, when he crossed the finish line just .020 seconds behind Kevin Harvick. It marked the closest margin of victory ever recorded at Daytona during the prestigious 500-mile event. Martin has started the Great American Race 25 times and has earned five top-five finishes and nine top-10s.

ONE OF FOUR: Daytona International Speedway is one of just four active Sprint Cup tracks where Martin has yet to earn a victory, along with Pocono Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Martin has one runner-up finish at Daytona, which he recorded in the 2007 Daytona 500.

MARTIN AT DAYTONA: In 49 Cup starts at Daytona International Speedway, Martin has scored one pole position (July 1, 1989), nine top-five finishes and 17 top-10s.

HOMETOWN CREW CHIEF: Martin lives in Daytona Beach now, but his crew chief, Alan Gustafson, considers the Daytona Beach area home for another reason. Gustafson grew up in Ormond Beach, just seven miles north of Daytona International Speedway. After graduating from Seabreeze High School, he enrolled at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which is located less than one mile east of the track. Gustafson has earned one victory at Daytona -- the NASCAR Nationwide Series event in July 2007.

DAYTONA SUCCESS: Under Gustafson, the No. 5 Chevrolet team has finished second twice at Daytona. The team took runner-up honors in July 2006 and July 2007, leading a combined 20 laps.

THE NO. 5 AT DAYTONA: The No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has led at least one lap in three of the five Daytona 500s it has entered under the direction of Gustafson. The team started from inside the top 10 in the last four 500s, with a career-best start of second coming last season with Martin behind the wheel. Martin finished the 2009 event in 16th. Overall the No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports' first Sprint Cup entry, has tallied one win (1986), 10 top-five finishes and 20 top-10s during the organization's 26 years.

HENDRICK AT DAYTONA: After 26 seasons of running the Daytona 500, Hendrick Motorsports drivers have tallied six wins, 19 top-five finishes, 34 top-10s and six pole positions in 81 starts. Hendrick drivers have finished inside the top 10 in all but four events.

NEW TEAM MEMBER: Tom Gray, 30, joined the No. 5 GoDaddy.com team this season as the second race engineer. Gray, who hails from Indianapolis, formerly worked in Hendrick Motorsports research and development department. Gray graduated from Purdue University in 2003 with a degree in mechanical engineering technology?and was the first freshman there to win the Purdue Grand Prix, a competition held among engineering students.

PIT CREW: The No. 5 GoDaddy.com team's pit crew remains intact from the 2009 season: Kyle Turner, front-tire changer; J.D. Holcomb, front-tire carrier; Jason Hunt, jackman; Josh Kirk, rear-tire changer; Dion Williams, rear-tire carrier; Travis Gordon, catch can; and Brad Pickens, gasman.

SHOOTOUT CHASSIS: Gustafson has chosen Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-548 for Saturday's Shootout. Martin raced this car in the July 2009 event at Daytona International Speedway.

500 CHASSIS: Martin will race Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-560 in the 2010 Daytona 500. This is a new chassis that never has been raced or tested.

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GUSTAFSON AT SPRINT FANZONE: Crew chief Alan Gustafson will chat with Miss Sprint Cup on stage in the Sprint FanZone on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 5:45 p.m. local time. The Sprint FanZone is located in the Daytona International Speedway infield adjacent to the Sprint Cup garage area.

*****

MARK MARTIN, DRIVER, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON RACING IN THE SHOOTOUT.): "It was hard not to be in that race last year. I was itching to get into that car, and to watch all the other guys go out there, it was an odd feeling. I was happy to hear with the way they restructured the race this year that we were definitely in. That time on the track is important to getting back into the swing of things with your team and with pit stops before the 500. I'm looking forward to it."

MARTIN (ON HIS OFFSEASON.): "I didn't go anywhere. Let's start with that. I stayed home and enjoyed every minute of the time with my family, just relaxing. I trained hard this off season, some days for three or four hours straight. I wanted to be in my best physical condition this year, and I think I am. I know I'm better than I was last year. I feel the best that I have in years, more physically and mentally prepared to start the season."

MARTIN (ON HOW TO IMPROVE FROM A RUNNER-UP SEASON.): "I made sure over the offseason that training was a priority. From talking to Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys at the shop, I know that they are more prepared and better at this point now than they were last year, too. We learned a lot last season that has us in a better place this year. Last year, we didn't know how our communication would be. The guys didn't know how I liked my cars set up. We know all of that stuff now. Instead of working on the little things, we can focus on the big picture. That makes a big difference."

MARTIN (ON THE DAYTONA 500.): "The Daytona 500 is a big deal. We can see that in the fans that come out and stay for weeks. The amount of time that is spent preparing the cars for this one race. The level of excitement is up on that day. It's just a different feeling. But once you're strapped in that car, it's the same. It's just like any other race, and you want to win. I don't treat it differently, and it's not this 'monkey on my back' because I haven't won it. Would it be great to win? Yes. But I don't think it's something that's going to haunt me if I don't."

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR THE 2010 SEASON.): "Win it all and leave them (the competition) crying! (LAUGHS.) We want to build on what we did in 2009. Take the gains we made, improve on them and ultimately win the championship. I think we have to score 15 more points per race in the Chase. We need to try to make the cars better, the team better, pit stops better, efficiency better, technical knowledge better and try to get an advantage. I think with a year under our belt and the understanding of what we have to do and need to do to improve on a track-to-track basis, we are absolutely better than we were at this point last year."

GUSTAFSON (ON GODADDY.COM TEAM CHANGES FOR THIS YEAR.): "Tom Gray came on board as a new engineer with us. He is a really bright guy. He has a lot of racing experience that will provide us with a lot of great information to ultimately run better. It will take some time for him to acclimate himself to the position. But that's with everyone. Once he gets comfortable he'll be a really good asset to the team. As for our pit crew, the same guys are back. A few new back-ups but the same primary guys are back. They're ready to go. They've had time to jell. Now they can work on speed and performance. They've been around each other enough where we have the basics handled. We can zero in on maximizing the speed of the pit stops."

GUSTAFSON (ON IMPROVING UPON HIS CAREER-BEST SEASON.): "My goal is to win every race. I'll do everything I can to get to that point. Sometimes you fall short and learn from it. Sometimes you succeed and learn from it. There's constant pressure regardless of what situation you're in. It doesn't change for me if we're 34th in points or first in points or second in points; coming off your worst season or your best as a crew chief. It's all similar. There's a constant pressure to perform. We hold ourselves to a high standard, regardless of the situation. The pressure is always there."

GUSTAFSON (ON NASCAR'S NEW RESTRICTOR PLATE.): "NASCAR added some wing end plates that slowed the cars down and put a little drag on the cars. I don't know for sure, but the restrictor plate should be, in single-car runs, a pretty direct replacement for the drag that they added with the curved end plate. That should be the same. They will probably suck up better and faster than they did before in a pack. If that's the case, the drivers will like it. In overall speed, I don't think they'll be a whole bunch of difference."

-source: hendrick motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Mark Martin
Teams Williams , Hendrick Motorsports