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Martin to make 1,000th NASCAR start

BRISTOL, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 2009) – Mark Martin will make his 1,000th NASCAR start in style tonight when he starts from the pole position at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race will be the 746th of Martin’s career. He also has competed in 231 Nationwide Series races and 23 Camping World Truck Series events during his 27 years of NASCAR racing. Martin joins Richard Petty and Michael Waltrip as the only drivers to reach the 1,000th-start milestone.

In his 745 Cup starts, he has earned 39 victories, 249 top-five finishes and 407 top-10s. He has driven 272,794.4 miles. At Bristol, specifically, Martin owns a personal-best nine pole positions as well as two wins, 15 top-five finishes and 22 top-10s. Most recently at Bristol, he started from the pole and drove the No. 5 Chevy to a sixth-place finish last March.

“Mark is an incredible person and an incredible race car driver,” said Alan Gustafson, crew chief of Martin’s No. 5 Pop-Tarts/CARQUEST Chevrolet. “I don’t even know if saying that does him justice. The 1,000th start is a huge accomplishment. But I would go farther to say that he’s the only guy that’s started 1,000 races and been competitive in all of them. There are not many people who can say they’ve done that. He operates at such a high level and runs so well. I look at his history, through clippings and articles when he was 19 years old and dominating short tracks and dirt tracks and ASA and up through the ranks. The guy is just amazing.”

Martin has earned 94 NASCAR victories in its three series with 39 Cup, 48 Nationwide and seven Truck series victories. Martin is the winningest driver in Nationwide Series history. He is 17th on the all-time Sprint Cup winner’s list and third among active drivers.

Martin’s Cup career began at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway on April 5, 1981. Then, the newcomer lined up fifth in Bud Reeder’s No. 02 race car. Martin finished 27th in the event, which Petty won.

“I remember that it was sprinkling that day,” Martin said. “And it was the first race I’ve ever been in that the race actually started under caution. I kind of freaked out about it. It was a new experience. While I was circling under yellow, I completely forgot to turn the rear-end cooler on. I guess it didn’t hit me that the race was actually starting so I didn’t think through turning everything on. I never turned it on, and I ended up burning up the rear end during the race. I was happy that we had qualified fifth for that first start, but I wasn’t real impressed with the way we performed all day. I wanted to run in four more races that year, and I knew I still had a lot to learn.”

Nowadays, Martin is teaching others, leading by example with four Cup wins, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 23 races this season. His teammates at Hendrick Motorsports’ lean on the NASCAR veteran.

“I think he’s brought a lot to the table for us here at Hendrick Motorsports,” said Chad Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. “He’s a true competitor. I know he’s influenced Jimmie’s (Johnson, driver) outlook on working out, staying fit, training and things of that nature. Not that Jimmie wasn’t already fit, but he’s taking it to that next level. I think Mark had a hand in that. Mark has definitely got a different approach to the way he handles race and the way he likes to run races, which is pretty cool. I think we’ve all learned an awful lot from him.”

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