St. Louis: Mark Martin preview

DEFENDING WINNER: Martin is the returning winner of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Last May, he led the final 46 laps of the prestigious event to earn his second career Darlington victory. His first win at the historic racetrack occurred...

DEFENDING WINNER: Martin is the returning winner of the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Last May, he led the final 46 laps of the prestigious event to earn his second career Darlington victory. His first win at the historic racetrack occurred Sept. 5, 1993, when he led 178 laps.

MARTIN AT DARLINGTON: Along with his two career victories, Martin has earned 17 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 43 Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. He has led 801 laps and finished all but three Cup events there during his career.

POLE SITTER: Martin's next Sprint Cup Series pole position will be the 50th of his career and will place him eighth on the all-time pole winner's list. He has earned two career poles at Darlington -- the first on April 2, 1989, and the most recent on March 22, 1998.

POINT STANDINGS: Martin and the GoDaddy.com team currently rank 10th in the Sprint Cup championship standings, five points behind ninth place and 220 markers behind the points leader.

MARK MARTIN, DRIVER, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON LAST YEAR'S SOUTHERN 500 WIN.): "Last year's win, well, it came pretty quickly after our first win, so it was exciting for us. It was a momentum boost. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a gutsy call and really locked the win in for us. The Southern 500 is a pretty big deal, and it had been so long since I won the first one that it was like I hadn't ever won it at all. So to get that win, and to do it with these guys on the (No.) 5 team, that was really special to me."

MARTIN (ON HOW DARLINGTON RACEWAY HAS EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS.): "Darlington was repaved many years ago and the first couple of years it was similar to how it is now. The difference with paving now, compared to then, is that the result will hang on and last a little longer. Eventually, though, it will get back to the way it was before with tires playing such a key role. Darlington is tough because I like sliding my race car around the track, and you just can't do that there. If you slip, you're going to be in the wall. So, last year, Alan was just brilliant. He set me up where I could race how I wanted to in one end and defend my position in the other. It was a perfect strategy, and that's the stuff you have to figure out for Darlington."

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET (ON LAST YEAR'S SOUTHERN 500 WIN.): "That's definitely the toughest race I've ever won; one of the toughest races I can remember ever running. We weren't very good on Friday during practice. Mark went out there and got us a good qualifying lap, salvaged a starting spot for us. But we knew we had a lot of work to do on the car. We made a lot of adjustments race morning. Probably four or five times more than we would normally make. It was a total team effort. I was physically and mentally exhausted after that race, as I'm sure all the guys on the team were. It was a race that took us all weekend to win. Mark never gave up on the track and kept fighting all night. It was really just an incredible night for us."

GUSTAFSON (ON THE KEYS TO WINNING AT DARLINGTON RACEWAY.): "Darlington used to be all about how your car handled in the long run because of the way the tires would fall off. Now, it's more like a typical racetrack. It's still about the handling of the car, but the tire wear really doesn't play a role like it used to at all. Darlington's a demanding racetrack, though. The driver is always on the edge. If you go about one inch past where you're supposed to be, you'll end up in the wall. It's a crazy race. Lots of action, and so much can happen through the course of it. You have to stay on your toes all night."

-source: hm

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Martin