Championship hopes fading for Martin By Shawn A. Akers MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 27, 1998) For Mark Martin, this just isn't going to get it. If the driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford continues to finish behind, or even just ...
Championship hopes fading for Martin By Shawn A. Akers
MARTINSVILLE, Va. (Sept. 27, 1998) For Mark Martin, this just isn't going to get it.
If the driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Ford continues to finish behind, or even just ahead of Jeff Gordon for the remainder of the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season, you can go ahead and hand Gordon his third overall and second straight championship.
With his third-place finish in the NAPA AutoCare 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday, Martin dropped to 199 points behind Gordon in the title chase with six races remaining. That's because Gordon finished second on Sunday afternoon, a little more than a half-second behind winner Ricky Rudd.
"I just couldn't get him," Martin said of Gordon, whom he chased for a better part of the final 100 laps. "I saw him drive hard today. You don't see that very often. He was driving the fool out of that thing today."
Martin earned his sixth victory of the season last Sunday in the MBNA Gold 400 at Dover Downs International Speedway. The only problem is, Gordon finished second, and he only gained five points on Gordon in the race for the championship, which has Martin seeking his first title.
Gordon made that five points back up on Martin on Sunday at Martinsville, but Martin certainly gave him a battle all the way. It's been indicative of Gordon's relentless charge to his third title in the last four years.
Gordon now has 14 straight top-five finishes, a streak that began in the Miller Lite 400 at Michigan in June. That streak includes seven victories, four seconds, two thirds and one fifth-place finish, that at Bristol last month.
"It was a great battle between me and Mark," Gordon said of Sunday's race. "I didn't think I could hold him off. He puts a lot of pressure on the guys (Gordon's crew)."
Gordon and Martin actually touched a few times, including one instance where Martin's car got loose and appeared as if it might veer out of control, but Martin saved it and didn't lose any positions.
"All the credit goes to that Valvoline team and that car," Martin said of his run. "It was a hard day. We gave them all we had there at the end. I did my best to run third at Martinsville. We'll go to Charlotte and race 'em hard."
Dale Jarrett, the only other driver with a realistic chance of winning the championship, saw his hopes all but go south on Sunday. His No. 88 Quality Care/Ford Credit Ford broke a cam shaft, relegating Jarrett to a disappointing 42nd-place finish.
Jarrett is now a distant third, 470 points behind Gordon and 271 points behind second-place Martin.
Martinsville was the final short-track event of the season for the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. The circuit will finish the season with races at Charlotte, Talladega, Daytona, Phoenix, Rockingham and Atlanta. All of those tracks -- except for Phoenix and Rockingham -- are 1.5 miles or better in length.
"We've got six races to go," Gordon said. "There's a lot of racing left. I feel like the championship is going to come down to something like what happened to Dale (Jarrett) today. If that happens to me or Mark, that's what's going to decide this championship.
"Mark and I keep trading five and 10 points back and forth. That's not what it's going to come down to. It's going to come down to us either having a failure or something like that."
Source: NASCAR Online