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Martin gears up to defend race win at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. (April 9, 2010) – Mark Martin started the weekend strong in his attempt to defend his race win at Phoenix International Raceway. Martin made a promising start by keeping his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in the top 10 during Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions.

Martin, the defending race winner, will line up his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet 23rd on Saturday at the one-mile oval. Race coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.

In this race last year, Martin earned his first win of the 2009 campaign. He started from the pole position and led a race-high 157 laps in his No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet on his way to Victory Lane.

“I remember being nervous for that race. But that’s only because I knew how good our car was,” Martin said.  “We had a winning car from the time we rolled off the truck last year. The guys knew it, too, and I was so concerned with not disappointing them. We had a great race. Perfect pit stops. Very few adjustments all night long. The caution came out late, and I thought, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me!’ We had to fight off Tony (Stewart) at the end, and he’s never easy to keep behind you. When we finally won, it was such a mix of relief and gratitude. It was an amazing night. One of those wins that I’m sure I’ll never forget. Absolutely incredible.”

Martin’s victory also marked his first trip to Victory Lane in a Hendrick Motorsports’ Cup Chevrolet and kept the organization’s win streak at PIR intact. Hendrick now owns six straight wins at the one-mile oval with contributions from Jimmie Johnson (four wins), Jeff Gordon (one) and Martin (one).

The No. 5 team has had success at PIR since 2005, scoring two wins, two pole positions and five top-five finishes under the direction of crew chief Alan Gustafson. Martin has helped continue that success, and in addition to his April 2009 win, he also recorded a fourth-place finish there in November.

But this year Martin and the No.5 team will face two new challenges—a longer race and the implementation of the spoiler. The event is 63 laps longer this year, and this will be the first race in which NASCAR has used the spoiler on the new car at a one-mile racetrack. Both factors will affect the No. 5 team’s race strategy.

“Obviously, the race strategy is going to change due to the length of the race being different,” Gustafson said. “Depending on how the pit stops fall, it could require another one, which will change things up, too. The spoiler will definitely have an impact on the cars at Phoenix. We’ve done as much work as we can to minimize that impact, but I do think there’s going to be something there. Our car was awesome at Phoenix last year with the wing.

“I think we’re prepared to go out there and run the same with the spoiler, but we’ll have to see just how big the changes will be.”