Out of semi-retirement, Martin looking to South Florida as a Championship community
Mark Martin Celebrates his thrid win of 2009 (photo: Geoff Burke, Getty Images)
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leader Tony Stewart and reigning Champion Jimmie Johnson both entered Michigan International Speedway with hopes of solidifying their 2009 Championship aspirations, as the race to the Chase and Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20-22 is at full throttle. But it was Mark Martin—who left semi-retirement to accept a full-time 2009 ride from Rick Hendrick—who would cross the finish line first, in the process making a leap to eighth in the season points standings.
“This team deserves to be in the Chase,” said Martin in Victory Lane at Michigan. Martin was referring to the 10-race shootout to determine the 2009 NASCAR Championship that will be decided at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20-22.Johnson led the field with six laps to go but ran out of fuel. As his engine succumbed, Greg Biffle inherited a short-lived lead before also dropping below the “E” on his gas tank. The ultimate beneficiary was Martin, who swept past Biffle to win his third race of the 2009 season.
Another with his eye on the ’09 crown is Jeff Gordon—a winner at every Cup track aside from THE Championship Track, Homestead-Miami Speedway—who was forced to start from the rear of the field after blowing an engine after qualifying.
Johnson, who has collected the Championship hardware each of the last three years at Homestead-Miami, shot out to the lead at Michigan when the green flag dropped and was stalked by NASCAR’s bad boy, Kyle Busch. Johnson led the first 52 of 60 laps at Michigan.
With Michigan known for high speeds and fuel mileage, Miami resident Juan Pablo Montoya understood that the margin of error was minimal as he seeks Championship contention via Chase eligibility. Montoya finished in the sixth position to climb to 14th in the season standings. Gordon clawed his way from the rear of the field to finish second in Michigan.
The series heads to Sonoma next week as the road to Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 20-22 continues.