Phoenix II: Mark Martin preview

MARTIN HOPES TO TAKE UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF AND FINISH THE JOB AT PHOENIX Martin, No. 6 AAA team experience best of both worlds in spring Phoenix race CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 7, 2006) -- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was Mark...

MARTIN HOPES TO TAKE UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF AND FINISH THE JOB AT PHOENIX
Martin, No. 6 AAA team experience best of both worlds in spring Phoenix race

CONCORD, N.C. (Nov. 7, 2006) -- It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was Mark Martin's last trip to Phoenix International Raceway. The weekend certainly did not seem to have the makings of greatness when Martin qualified 18th, and on paper it looks simply like a one-lap down, 11th-place finish. But what transpired in between the race's 312 laps would run the scale of emotion for Martin and the team. Martin would turn in one of his most dominating performances in recent history, twice coming through the field, before eventually coming up short of fuel and still finishing just one place back of a top 10.

"That was a really tough night," said Martin. "The car was so fast and it was so good that it was one of those deals where it was our race to lose and unfortunately we lost it. But, you can't overlook the fact that the car was just awesome and driving that race has to be as much fun as I've had driving a car in a long time. From the start of the race you could just tell that we had a car capable of winning the race."

Despite the 18th-place starting position, Martin needed just 17 laps to move into the top 10, before taking the lead on lap 66. After that he lost and regained it through the various pit cycles. He would lead 111 laps and build as much as a six-second lead in the race. Then the roller coaster took a dive down the curve. A problem with the lug-nuts on the back of the car during a stop under caution on lap 200, would force Martin to come back into the pits the following lap to have the lug nuts tightened. Instead of the six-second lead he had once enjoyed, Martin would return in 16th-postion, the final car on the lead lap.

But on this night, Martin's No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion was the class of the field. Powering the same car that gave him the victory in the 2005 All-Star race, Martin needed just 30 laps to break back into the top 10. He continued to work his way around the other cars, on lap 297 he moved back inside the top five, but with three laps remaining he radioed the team he was running out of fuel. On this night, Martin was so quick, that despite the penalty and running out of fuel, he was still able to coast around the track to take an 11th-place finish at Phoenix. His best finish there since 2003.

Still, it was little consolation for Martin.

"You only have a car that good a few times in your entire career," said Martin, who will make his 634th Nextel Cup start this weekend. "We had the car to win the race and we were in position to do just that, it just didn't work out that night."

This weekend Martin and the No. 6 AAA team head back to Phoenix International Raceway looking to close their unfinished business. The team has fallen on hard luck, getting caught up in four accidents in four straight races, after heading in Charlotte right in the think of the "Chase" just a month ago. Martin knows that despite the team's greatly diminished championship hopes, nothing can bring a smile back like a trip to victory lane.

"This weekend, we'll go back and hopefully we can take up just where we left off and close the deal. Our luck has been just horrible the last few weeks and we could really use a good run and the chance to compete down the stretch for the win. If we can get the car a fraction of where it was in the spring, we'll do just that."

-credit: roush racing

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin