Watkins Glen: Mark Martin - NASCAR spotlight

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- The Countdown: 5 Races to Go Martin poised to make his move at scene of past successes Welcome to a week of pros and cons, anticipation and trepidation, depending on which NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver is ...

Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup -- The Countdown: 5 Races to Go
Martin poised to make his move at scene of past successes

Welcome to a week of pros and cons, anticipation and trepidation, depending on which NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver is speaking.

It's road-course time.

This is a week some drivers have been awaiting.

For others, this is a week they can't wait to end.

Such is the nature of road racing discussions among stock car drivers. Always amounting to a split decision, the differing feelings regarding road courses are heightened coming into Sunday's SIRIUS at The Glen. That's because of potential ramifications on the "Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup," the 10-race championship showdown that starts with the Sept. 19 event at New Hampshire International Speedway.

That showdown will feature the top 10 drivers in the point standings going into New Hampshire, and anyone else within 400 points of the standings' leader. All drivers eligible will have their points totals reset. The leader will be reset with 5,050 points and five-point incremental drops will follow. After the reset, the standard point-earning system will remain in place for the last 10 races.

Five races remain before New Hampshire. Sunday's race, at 2.45-mile/11-turn Watkins Glen International, could be the place where drivers on the Top 10 "bubble" make their moves.

Whether those moves are forward or backward remains to be seen.

Among drivers in the vicinity of the bubble, Mark Martin (No. 6 Viagra Ford) would appear to have an excellent shot at advancing in the points and perhaps even moving into the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Top 10. Martin -- a four-time series runner-up -- has three victories at Watkins Glen, second all-time behind four-time winner Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet).

"I love road-course racing," Martin said. "I think growing up in Arkansas driving on hilly, dirt roads is probably where I got the feel for it. We've had a lot of success at Watkins Glen in racing and qualifying. It sure would be nice to get back on that streak."

Martin is 15th in points, only 123 behind 10th-place Ryan Newman (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge). In previous seasons, his title hopes would be long gone, since he trails points leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) by 676.

Thanks to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup, Martin is in the hunt, as are several others outside the top 10 and a light year behind Johnson: 11th-place Kasey Kahne (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), 12th-place Jeremy Mayfield (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge), 13th-place Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) and 14th-place Jamie McMurray (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge).

Thanks to Martin's history of success at Watkins Glen, he's especially in the hunt this week.

In addition to Martin's three Glen victories, note this:

Those three victories came in consecutive years, 1993-95; Each victory came after winning the Bud Pole; Martin has led 204 laps at Watkins Glen, more than any other driver; He has 11 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes at Watkins Glen, another series-best; His average finish of 6.375 -- in 16 races -- is best among drivers with more than three Glen races.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Dale Jarrett , Ryan Newman , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Mark Martin