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Martin gears up to defend Darlington win

DARLINGTON, S.C. (May 7, 2010) – Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, tamed Darlington Raceway last year, and this Saturday, the NASCAR veteran will attempt to defend his victory at the historic oval.

Last year, Martin and the No. 5 team started in the 12th position and held steady in the top-15 throughout the entire 327 lap event at the speedway. Martin made his move with 46 laps to go, capturing the lead and holding off all challengers on his way to the checkered flag. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win kick-started a successful run for the No. 5 team, which finished 2009 with five victories.

“Last year’s win, well, it came pretty quickly after our first win, so it was exciting for us. It was a momentum boost,” Martin said. “Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a gutsy call and really locked the win in for us. The Southern 500 is a pretty big deal, and it had been so long since I won the first one that it was like I hadn’t ever won it at all. So to get that win, and to do it with these guys on the (No.) 5 team, that was really special to me.”

In 43 Cup starts at the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” Martin has tallied two wins (1989 and 2009), 17 top-five finishes, 26 top-10s and led 801 laps. He has finished all but three Cup events that he has entered at the speedway and completed 96.6 percent of all laps he’s attempted (14,117 laps of 14,620 total).  Martin will be under the leadership of Gustafson again when he returns to the South Carolina oval this weekend. Gustafson has recorded two top-10 finishes in five Cup starts at the speedway and knows the No. 5 team will have to stay alert all night in order to have a chance of winning at the end.

“Darlington used to be all about how your car handled in the long run because of the way the tires would fall off,” Gustafson said. “Now, it’s more like a typical racetrack. It’s still about the handling of the car, but the tire wear really doesn’t play a role like it used to at all. Darlington’s a demanding racetrack, though. The driver is always on the edge. If you go about one inch past where you’re supposed to be, you’ll end up in the wall. It’s a crazy race. Lots of action, and so much can happen through the course of it. You have to stay on your toes all night.” 

Race coverage for the event begins Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX.