Darlington: Mark Martin preview

MARTIN LOOKS TO TAME THE 'LADY IN BLACK' Martin heads to Darlington this weekend, looking to rebound from his worst finish of the season last week at Richmond (17). Darlington will be Martin's third Car of Tomorrow race of the season and the...

MARTIN LOOKS TO TAME THE 'LADY IN BLACK'

Martin heads to Darlington this weekend, looking to rebound from his worst finish of the season last week at Richmond (17). Darlington will be Martin's third Car of Tomorrow race of the season and the "Track Too Tough Too Tame" looks to post its biggest challenge ever this weekend.

Worthy Note: Martin finished seventh in his first career Cup race at Darlington in 1982.

Martin heads to Darlington this weekend, looking to rebound from his worst finish of the season last week at Richmond (17). Darlington will be Martin's third Car of Tomorrow race of the season and the "Track Too Tough Too Tame" looks to post its biggest challenge ever this weekend.

MARTIN AT DARLINGTON

This will be Martin's 41st career Cup start at Darlington Raceway, where his 17 top-five and 25 top-10 finishes are the most among active drivers. Martin has finished inside the top 10 in 62 percent of his races there, where he has finished eighth or better in five of his last six and top five in three of his last six. He will be looking for his fifth straight top-10 at Darlington this weekend, where he made his first start on April 4 of 1982, when he finished seventh. He won the famed Southern 500 there in Sept. of 1993; his only Cup win at the track. His eight Busch wins at Darlington are a track record, setting him as one of the most successful drivers in the track's famed history.

HISTORIC BUSCH START

While Martin's history at Darlington in the Busch series is virtually untouchable, he will make another historic Busch start there this Friday. Martin will make his first start in a Hendrick Motorsports car when he climbs in the No. 5 Chevy for the Diamond Hill Plywood 200.

MAKING POINTS ON THE TRACK

Martin moved up to 14th in the driver points last weekend, despite having missed three races this season. Although he has competed in only seven of 10 events, he trails the Chase cut-off point by only 80 points. He leads 18 drivers in the points, who have run in three more races. In addition, Martin and co-driver Regan Smith have the No. 01 car at sixth in the Nextel Cup Owner points.

ON HIS OWN TERMS

Martin entered the 2007 season resolved to run a limited schedule and he stuck to his plan. He started his Cup season with three-consecutive top-five finishes - for the first time in his racing career - and five straight top 10's . Until joining with Ginn Racing this season, Martin had never started a season with back-to-back top-fives and his second-place finish in the Daytona 500 is also a career best. Martin's three straight top-fives to open the season also marked the first time Martin has scored three consecutive top-five finishes since 2002 and his lead in the points was his first since 2002. He became the oldest driver to lead the points for more than one week and the first driver since 1983 to walk away with the lead.

QUOTING MARK

"Darlington is a cool track that I've always liked. I ran second there to Dale Earnhardt twice in '89 and '90 and finally won in '93. Sometimes I think that people seem to forget that I won a Southern 500. I've had a lot of success at Darlington and an enormous amount of Busch wins. The place brings back some great memories of some great battles. Actually the win in '93 was four in a row and that was a big deal.

"It's a jagged oval. It's not a smooth radius turn. The wall goes in and out and in and out. Your line is as smooth as anywhere else, but the track's all over the place. You go from touching the apron to touching the wall and you've never even changed directions. It's really narrow and banked a lot. The cars go really fast and the track goes everywhere so it's always a challenge."

"We know that we still have our work cut out for us in the COT. We've really struggled in the two COT races that I've driven in this year. We were able to make a lot of improvements in the car from Phoenix to Richmond, so we just have to make sure that we keep heading in the right direction."

MARK MARTIN FAST FACTS -- DARLINGTON

* Martin's 25 top 10 and 17 top-five finishes are the most of any active driver at Darlington.

* Martin won the famed Southern 500 at Darlington in Sept. of 1993.

* Martin has finished inside the top-eight in five of the last six at Darlington.

* Martin has finished inside the top-five in three of the last six at Darlington and he has posted three consecutive top 10's there.

* Martin's eight Busch wins at Darlington are a track record. He'll run this weekend's Busch race for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevy.

-credit: gr

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Regan Smith , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports