Mark Martin’s last scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race came Sunday in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Martin started 22nd in the 43-car field and rallied to crack the top-10 with 70 laps to go in the 267-lap race. He thought his car was good enough to challenge the leaders as day faded to night and the track surface cooled.
“Let’s stick with the setup,” Martin said on lap 189. “We’ll wrestle it – old school. Leave it alone. Let me do the work.”
And just as he has since his Sprint Cup debut on April 5, 1981 at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, Martin went to work.
But the grip Martin thought would be in the track as it cooled with the setting sun wasn’t there. Despite getting four new Goodyears during his final pit stop on lap 235, the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy struggled for traction on the 1.5-mile oval. Martin was 16th for the race’s final restart on lap 240 but drifted to 19th when the checkered flag dropped.
Martin ends his NASCAR career with 1,144 starts across all NASCAR series, with 40 Sprint Cup wins, 49 Nationwide Series wins and seven Camping World Truck Series wins.
“It is hard to believe that I’ve lived this dream,” Martin said. “I’m so fortunate. I got two chances at it. I got a chance at it and had success and failed, and had to go and start my career all over again and spend several years getting back up on my feet and getting a second opportunity in NASCAR. It is really hard to believe. I am still – deep down inside – I’m still the kid from Arkansas that got the huge thrill the first time I went to Daytona as a spectator to watch the Daytona 500. I wasn’t even a teenager yet. I never dreamed I would be able to do the things that I’ve done and to have the success that I’ve had. It’s been a dream. Living a dream.”
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 17th. The race marked Newman’s last as a member of SHR, as he moves to Richard Childress Racing in 2014. Newman scored eight poles and four wins, including the 20th running of the Brickyard 400 in August 2013, during his five-year tenure at SHR.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 20th. It was Patrick’s 46th career Sprint Cup start and her first at Homestead. Patrick, who competed for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished two spots in the race ahead of Stenhouse, who placed 22nd.
Denny Hamlin won the Ford EcoBoost 400 to score his 23rd career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his second at Homestead.
Matt Kenseth finished .799 of a second behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were eight caution periods for 37 laps, with five drivers failing to finish.
Newman represented SHR in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He came into the final race of the 10-race Chase in 11th place among the 13 Chase drivers and maintained that position after Homestead.
Patrick ended the year 27th in the standings and finished runner-up to Stenhouse in the 2013 Rookie of the Year title.
Stewart, who was sidelined midway through the season with a broken right leg suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5, finished 29th in points.
Johnson won his sixth Sprint Cup title by 19 points over Kenseth, leaving him one shy of the record of seven Sprint Cup championships earned by NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.
The 2014 Sprint Cup season kicks off Feb. 14-23 with the traditional Speedweeks at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The 56th Daytona 500, the first point-paying race of the season, is scheduled for Feb. 23 and will be broadcast live on FOX.