Atlanta: Mark Martin preview

Martin to Make 621st Consecutive Start in Atlanta At 48, the U.S. Army driver is the oldest to hold points lead for more than one week HAMPTON, Ga. (March 16, 2007) -- Mark Martin, the current NASCAR Nextel Cup points leader and oldest driver...

Martin to Make 621st Consecutive Start in Atlanta
At 48, the U.S. Army driver is the oldest to hold points lead for more than one week

HAMPTON, Ga. (March 16, 2007) -- Mark Martin, the current NASCAR Nextel Cup points leader and oldest driver to ever hold the lead for more than one week, will make his 621st consecutive start in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The only other drivers older than the 48-year-old Martin to lead the Cup points were Bobby Allison (51, 1988) and Morgan Shepherd (49, 1990), but both drivers held the lead for one week. Martin assumed the points lead, Feb. 25, following the second race of the season at California Speedway in Fontana.

Considered one of the most physically fit drivers in the sport, Martin's consecutive start streak began Feb. 14, 1988 at the Daytona 500. The streak is the longest active in NASCAR and ranks fifth all-time, behind Ricky Rudd (788), Rusty Wallace (698), Terry Labonte (655), Dale Earnhardt (648).

"I don't put a lot into streaks and that sort of thing," said Martin. "However, to be able to be around that long and to keep a ride that long while never having to take a sick day is something that I'm really proud of. As far as it coming to an end, you know all those types of things come to an end at some point and I am very comfortable with our schedule and what the plans are."

During the 19-year consecutive start streak, Martin claimed 35 wins, 233 top fives, 364 top 10s and 39 poles.

His streak is scheduled to come to an end in Bristol next week where he will give the seat to the 01 Army Chevy to rookie Regan Smith. Martin is also scheduled to miss the Martinsville race after Bristol and return to action at the April 15 Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

"It's been quite a run," said Martin. "But I don't look at it as anything ending. It would be really hard if I weren't ever going to run a Cup race again or if I didn't think I could compete at this level anymore. But we are right at the start of a new exciting era with Ginn Racing. We'll be at Texas for sure and we'll show up looking to win that race in the U.S. Army car. If you ask me, I have the best deal in all of NASCAR. I'm really focused more right now on all of the things that we have coming up and not anything that is coming to an end."

Martin is also looking to add to another streak in Atlanta. The U.S. Army Chevrolet driver has scored top-five finishes in the first three races of the season. It's the first time in his career that he has started a season with consecutive top fives. He was runner-up in the Daytona 500 and finished fifth in the last two races at California and Las Vegas.

"I'm having a blast driving the U.S. Army Chevy for Ginn Racing," noted Martin. "I think it's really cool that we've been competitive in each of the first three races and I think it's awesome we were able to get the points lead."

"My main focus right now is Atlanta," added Martin. "I love driving these Ginn Racing cars for Ryan (crew chief, Pemberton) and the guys. I also like racing at Atlanta, so I'm just chomping at the bit to get on that super-fast track. It should be a lot of fun, and make no mistake; I'd love to get a win this week."

In 42 career starts at the 1.54-mile Atlanta oval, Martin has posted two wins, 21 top-10s and 13 top fives. He has recorded top-five finishes at AMS in four of the last five races, including a second-place result at this race last March.

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Terry Labonte , Rusty Wallace , Morgan Shepherd , Regan Smith , Bobby Allison , Mark Martin