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Martin hopes prior experience, testing pays off in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 27, 2009) – Mark Martin climbed into the noisy helicopter and looked out the window as the aircraft hovered above the city of neon lights. His accomplishment—winning the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway—finally sank in.

That was 11 years ago.

“It was probably the first win ever in my career when I realized what I had accomplished—that I won a race in the highest level of motor sports.” Martin said of the March 1, 1998, win. “Before that night, all wins were just wins to me. They weren’t special. But ever since then—that was 11 years ago—every win has been important to me.”

Since then, Martin has earned five top-five finishes, nine top-10s and has led 259 laps at the 1.5-mile track.

This weekend, Martin will make his 12th Sprint Cup start at Las Vegas and his 725th overall. This will mark his third race with Hendrick Motorsports’ No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST team, which has seen its share of success under the leadership of crew chief Alan Gustafson at the Nevada racetrack. There, the team has earned two top-five finishes and three top-10s in five starts.

Despite being in their first season together, Martin and his team enter with a distinct advantage—the benefit of participating in the Goodyear tire test in December 2008.

“Anytime you can get on the racetrack, it’s an advantage.” Gustafson said, “We were extremely happy to be chosen to be a part of that tire test. With NASCAR’s new testing policy, those tire tests have become invaluable. Tires have become an increasingly important part of the race and play a huge role in the setup of the car. So getting the chance to learn the nuances of the tires for that particular track is also a benefit.”

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