BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 30, 1998) As usual, Bristol Motor Speedway lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit this weekend, and Mark Martin needed a lot of skill and a little luck...
BRISTOL, Tenn. (March 30, 1998)
As usual, Bristol Motor Speedway lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series circuit this weekend, and Mark Martin needed a lot of skill and a little luck to make it through the race with the Valvoline/Cummins Taurus in one piece following Sunday's Food City 500.
Martin's speed of 123.221 mph was fast enough for a ninth-place starting position for the 500-lap race.
"We got an early draw to qualify and the sun played havoc a little bit," Martin said. "We almost had a contender for the pole after the morning practice, but we were off a little bit after lunch. I was completely out of breath after those two laps. I didn't want to take the second one, but I did anyway."
Martin was able to avoid the accidents, which caused 14 cautions for 88 laps. The car was tight throughout the race. The Valvoline/Cummins team made air pressure, wedge and track bar adjustments during their pit stops to loosen up the car. Martin was better on long green-flag runs, but at Bristol, those are hard to find.
He was running in the top-10 for the first half of the race, until he got the long green flag run he was looking for. After pitting for four tires and a wedge adjustment on lap 217, Martin was ninth on lap 222. The race stayed green until lap 343, which allowed Martin to move up to third for much of that run. The car handled well until the next pit stop, when the new tires made the car tighten up again.
The team had great pit stops all day (most between 18-19 seconds), but they often lost a few positions to the cars that only took two tires. After the final yellow flag flew on lap 486, the race ended with a 10-lap shootout. Martin was sixth on the restart, but lost one position to his teammate, Jeff Burton, who took on new tires at the end. Martin finished seventh, leaving him seventh in points, but only 110 points out of first place.
"We had a good run," Martin said. "I'm pleased with a seventh-place finish considering the car was a little off all day. A little off at any other track is okay, but at Bristol it can put you a lap down before you know it. The points leaders didn't have a great day, so this turned out to be pretty good for us."
The NASCAR Winston Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division make their second trip to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Martin won the inaugural Coca-Cola 300 last year.
Source: NASCAR Online