FORT WORTH, Texas – It’s time for the first night race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season, and Mark Martin is ready to line up under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway.
“Who doesn’t like a good night race? I’m excited about it,” said Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet. “It’s our first one of the season, and I think that everyone, the drivers, the fans, the sponsors, gets pumped up for night races. I think it’s a good call by the track and am looking forward to it.”
Experience should be on Martin’s side when he lines up Saturday night for the 334-lap event, which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX. In his last four outings at the 1.5-mile racetrack, Martin has scored an average finish of 4.75 while driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. In the last 20 Cup events held at Texas, Martin owns one win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s.
Martin ranks tied for second all-time at the track with his teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson with seven top-five finishes. His 12 top-10s are the most recorded at the track, and he owns more lead-lap finishes -- 15 -- than any other driver in the last 20 events held there.
Handling will be the team’s key focus, and crew chief Lance McGrew expects to spend the majority of the 501-mile event making adjustments based on the weather. When the sun goes down, the track cools off, and that creates extra grip for drivers. Ultimately, that means faster lap times and a faster race altogether.
“It’s definitely a challenge to continue adjusting your car to the changing conditions; every team faces that in races like these,” McGrew said. “The race starts at 6:30 p.m. (local time), so we’ll be chasing the track as it continues to get cooler all night. This means that we’re going to have to make adjustments on every stop, no matter how good the car feels to Mark at that very moment. If the track temperature is changing, then the car’s handling is changing, too.”
Martin will line up Saturday driving Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No. 5-647, which is the same car the team used last month at Auto Club Speedway.