Martin wins LifeLock 400Share
Mark Martin told his crew with just about four laps remaining in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway that his car was fast enough to run with race-leader Greg Biffle and second-place Jimmie Johnson. The problem for Martin was that while he was third he didn’t have enough time to catch the two leaders, so he went to Plan B.
That was to accept a third-place finish and collect enough points to jump from 13th to 10th in the race to make the season-ending 12-car Chase.
But wait! Johnson ran out of gas with less than two laps to go and Martin had renewed hope. Then Biffle ran out seconds later and Martin was home free, home first with his third triumph this season and 38th overall in 737 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
“This team deserves to be in the Chase and we were on the outside looking in with all the trouble we’ve had,” said Martin, 50, who started 32nd. “I went for the points. I thought those guys (Biffle and Johnson) were running too hard for us to save gas. I couldn’t do both, save gas and run with them. And when Jimmie ran out I screamed (over his radio), ’Hey, we’re this close! I’m going to run hard!’ I thought we could make it (on fuel). We ran out coming off turn four but this was great gas mileage by this Carquest/Kellogg’s Chevrolet.”
“Winning with a surprise is always one of the most fun. Everybody knows we’ve had some horrendous luck and we were pretty far back on the outside looking in for the Chase. For me, I always come up short on a gas thing. If you look at the stats I’ve probably lost 25 and won two. I saw the pace they wanted to run at the end and I started trying to save fuel. It was important for me to finish this race. If we were in the top five in points we would have run out because I would have gone after it.
“I had to let them (Biffle and Johnson) go do their thing. I saw the 48 (Johnson) run out and I said I was going for it. I couldn’t believe how much I was then gaining on the No. 16 (Biffle) going through turn one. And then I was really gaining on him. I couldn’t believe how much I was gaining on him and then I said, “Wow! He‘s out.’”
Martin held the record for most laps led (141) without winning a NASCAR Cup race at Michigan, established in 1993 in a race won by Ricky Rudd in, ironically, the No. 5, Martin’s current number. Now Johnson owns that mark, leading for a total of 146 laps before running out of fuel while in the lead with less that two laps remaining. He was credited with a 22nd place finish while Biffle managed to coast to a fifth-place finish.
It is Martin’s fifth Sprint Cup win at Michigan and first since 1998 (1990, 1993, 1997 and 1998). The victory also vaulted Martin into eighth in the Sprint Cup Chase point standings.
Martin’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, finished second with Denny Hamlin third and Carl Edwards fourth.
The stage was set for a fuel-mileage finish when David Stremme spun out with 49 laps remaining in the 200-lap race. Biffle took the lead when the green flag dropped six laps later with Martin second and Johnson third. Johnson got around Martin with 23 laps to go and then, after trying to conserve fuel, took a strong run at Biffle, finally getting past him with six laps remaining before running out of fuel four laps later.
“The 48 (Johnson) came up there like we weren’t on a fuel-mileage run and ran us down,” Biffle explained. “I could run with him. It made me use too much throttle and I burned up the gas, We would have made it, no problem, we had a great strategy and the No. 5 (Martin) wouldn’t have beaten us. If the 48 would have backed off and made it to the end of the race, too, he wouldn’t have beat us. Unfortunately he came up there and we cat-and-moused and used up our gas and that’s the way it is. The No. 5 won.”
Gordon said he was able to run hard the entire last stage of the race and that he pretty much knew Martin would push once he caught up with him.
A very frustrated Johnson said, “There’s not much you can do. We ran a good strong race and to come back with whatever finish it was, what do you do? We raced hard, led the most laps. And when time was a big factor we went up there and passed the 5 and the 16. So, on the bright side of things I’m really happy with the performance we had and we really closed the gap here at Michigan. Unfortunately we didn’t come away with the win.”
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