Monday, April 30, 2012

Under the Spotlight: Mark Martin Earns 53rd Career-Pole


Michael Waltrip Racing's Mark Martin adds his
signature to the 2012 Coors Light Pole backdrop.
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR
Mark Martin finished eighth in Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond after starting on the pole for the 53rd time in his career.

Martin earned Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) their third pole of 2012 during Friday’s qualifying session for the Capital City 400 Presented by Virginia is for Lovers. The driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine turned the second-fastest lap of the day on his first run and knocked Carl Edwards off the pole his second time around turning a lap at 128.327 miles-per-hour, according to Michael Waltrip Racing’s website.

Martin led the first 29 laps of Saturday’s race until losing grip in the left year midway through the race, which caused the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine to fall all the way back to 17th.

After several pit stops for adjustments, Martin took the wave around on lap 315 and was able to make his way into the top 10 with less than 100 laps to go to the finish. The driver crossed the finish line in eighth in his second-highest finish of the season – Martin’s best finish came at Texas in which he finished third in the Samsung Mobile 500.

Saturday’s pole-position start was Martin’s fifth at Richmond and comes 31 years after his first pole. So far this season, the driver has earned two poles, including last weekend at Richmond and back in March at Phoenix.

Martin’s part-time stint at MWR is not the first of his career – the driver ran only part-time in the Cup Series in 2007 and 2008 in order to help his son develop his racing career. Martin decided to return full-time in 2009 and was offered a ride by Hendrick Motorsports.

During his time with the A-list team, Martin has a successful first season earning five wins and a second-place finish in the championship behind then teammate Jimmie Johnson. The 2010 season was not nearly as rewarding for the veteran driver who lacked wins and was unable to make the Chase – that same year Hendrick signed Kasey Kahne to drive for them in 2012 leaving Martin without a spot on the team.

In his first season with MWR, Martin is currently ranked 19th in the point standings after running seven races, ahead of several drivers who run full-time schedules including Hendrick-replacement Kahne, Marcos Ambrose, AJ Allmendinger, and Kurt Busch.

Despite having a successful racing career that spans 31 years, Martin explained Saturday that he is just happy to pilot fast cars at MWR, when asked whether starting on the pole would help earn him a win. “It’s hard to say,” said Martin. “We won one competition and that’s what it’s all about. When you get to this stage in my career, winning any competition is a cool thing. I get to drive such great race cars.” Martin finished by saying, “It’d be cool to win a race, but just driving fast stuff is pretty fun.”

Martin will hand over the wheel to Michael Waltrip neSunday in the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway. Martin will make his next Sprint Cup Series appearance May 12 in the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Martin will also share seat time with Brian Vickers who is scheduled to drive seven races in the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine.

In his 45 career-starts at Darlington, Martin has two wins, two poles, 17 top fives and 26 top-10 finishes.

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