Chicagoland recap: Martin wins, Gordon takes second
JOILET, Ill. (July 11,2009)—Mark Martin drove his No. 5 CARQUEST/Kellogg’s Chevrolet to lead a race-high 195 laps and win Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Chicagoland Speedway.
Pulling away after a double-file restart with two laps left in Saturday night’s race, Martin won his series-best fourth race of the season and the 39th of his career. Martin gained two positions to 11th in the standings and now is within one victory of Harry Gant’s 1991 record of five wins in a season by a driver 50 or older.
“That was fun! That’s what life’s all about right there,” Martin said. “These guys deserve to win. We could have parked the car yesterday with an hour left in practice. But you know the best car doesn’t usually win.
“This is a big birthday present for (team owner Rick Hendrick). I told him it would be almost his birthday by the time we got done here so it’s close enough. I’m so proud. He’s going to be a little sticky going home from all the champagne and Gatorade in Victory Lane, but it’s all fun.”
Martin crossed the finish line .415 seconds ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon, who drove his No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Patriot Academy Chevrolet to a second-place finish. Gordon remains second in the driver standings. As a result of a special promotion by race sponsor LifeLock.com, based on one-two finishes by Martin and Gordon at both Michigan International Speedway and Chicagoland, a lucky fan was the recipient of a $1 million dollar prize.
“It was a heck of a day for us,” Gordon said. “I have to thank the Patriot Academy and DuPont. It was an awesome race for us. Great call by (crew chief) Steve Letarte and all the guys on this team by making some great pit stops and just sticking with it. We had our adventures out there—that is for sure.
“On that last restart, Mark (Martin), he went a little early which he should have. That is strategy that you have got to take in to account on the final restart. It caught me a little off guard, and I spun the tires. Then Kasey Kahne was really strong on the outside. He got to the outside of me and I had to fight hard to get by him. I didn’t know that was the last lap, I thought I had another lap to try to get Mark. Still, a great one-two finish.”
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, lined up third and led twice for 58 laps before joining his teammates in the top 10 with an eighth-place finish. Johnson remains third in the driver standings.
“It was one of those days,” Johnson said. “I thought we had this thing won at one point and then on that restart it didn’t work out so well for us. Then everybody was out of control back there racing and body-slamming. We were bump-drafting down the straightaways and that was some wild racing. I didn’t think we could race like that on a 1.5-mile.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet, also was a victim of hard racing. Earnhardt started 13th and spent most of the day running in the top 10, where he fell into the middle of a three-wide pack with 50 laps to go. Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy became loose and he collected the outside car and brushed the wall. After making a pit road stop, he scored a 15th-place finish.
“We messed way up bad at the end the last 70-80 laps,” Earnhardt said. “We had it too tight, and we had it too loose. I don’t know really what we weren’t doing right. We did a great job I thought up until that point in the race. We had some pretty good highlights and maintaining pretty good. We should have finished a little better, but we are getting there.”
Brad Keselowski, making his fourth Cup start of the season in the No. 25 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, cracked into the top 10 by Lap 240. He finished 32nd.
“We made progress all night,” Keselowski said. “By the end, we were definitely a top five car, maybe better. I am proud of everybody on the GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. Good night in general. We would like to have the finish to go with it, but we ran very, very strong tonight. I just want to continue to gain experience and have fun at the same time.”