DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 9, 2009) – Mark Martin led the last 46 laps on his way to Victory Lane during Saturday’s Southern 500 presented by GoDaddy.com at Darlington Raceway.
Martin, who improves to 11th in the driver standings, climbed from his 12th-place starting position and held off teammate Jimmie Johnson for the win.
“This is unbelievable,” said Martin, who now has won twice at Darlington Raceway. “Just absolutely unbelievable. A big huge thanks to Cheez-It and all our sponsors, CARQUEST, Chevrolet and Sprint for supporting this thing and the race fans. You know I’ve got such a great race team. This was a big surprise. You know we had a strong car but I never expected to win. Alan Gustafson is absolutely the best. I may have been his childhood hero. I’m living a second childhood now, and he’s my childhood hero.”
Three of Martin’s teammates joined him in the top 10. Johnson finished second, while Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 DuPont/National Guard ESGR Chevrolet, took fifth. Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet took seventh, and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet, finished 27th.
Martin seized the lead on Lap 322, with Johnson in hot pursuit. But fuel became a concern for Johnson, who started to conserve down the stretch. Johnson held on to turn his 42nd starting position into a runner-up finish.
“I pushed Mark as hard as I could,” said Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “He made one small mistake. We needed to go into fuel save mode at that point. Unfortunately just had to ride home. We’ll take second after what we went through tonight.”
It was a promising night for points leader Gordon and rookie Keselowski. Gordon, who started from the outside pole position, led once for six laps during Saturday’s race.
Keselowski lined up 31st for the race and didn’t crack into the top 10 until late in the race when crew chief Lance McGrew decided to gamble on fuel mileage. On Lap 295, Keselowski stayed out and picked up track position en route to his first top-10 finish in the No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet.