Martin: “We've got a race on our hands”

Martin tries to make up a 108-point deficit on Johnson—in one race—on nine different occasions

The No. 5 has made up a 108-point deficit on Johnson—in one race—on nine different occasions; will Sunday be the 10th? (photo courtesy: John Harrelson, Getty Images Sport)

Heading into Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series Championship finale, Jimmie Johnson leads Mark Martin by 108 points in the NASCAR Championship standings.

…Which makes this a good time to reveal that Martin has made up more than 108 points on his Hendricks Motorsports teammate—in one race alone—on nine separate occasions in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career. Ironically enough, one year (2005) it happened at Homestead-Miami Speedway, site of this Sunday’s Sprint Cup Championship finale; great seats are STILL available by calling (866) 409-RACE or by clicking here.

Of course, after Sunday’s Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, there are no more races to make up any ground, so this is Martin’s last opportunity to pull of the improbable in 2009. And for him to capture the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship, he needs to win the Ford 400 and lead the most laps, and have Johnson come home 26th or worse.

“That makes that pretty cut and dried,” said No. 5 crew chief Alan Gustafson. “We have to win it for that scenario to play out. We’ll just focus on going down there to Homestead and enjoying it. You can’t be too loose in the corner. You have to roll the center really well. It’s tough to do, but we’ve got the right driver for that. He’s really good down there. He can deal with a lot of those issues.”

Johnson, meanwhile, has never won a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and in fact lost 72 points in Miami last year en route to his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. And Martin did shave 111 points off of his second-place deficit just two weeks ago at Texas. Could it happen again?

“I’m going after it every week,” said Martin. “Every time I strap in that race car, I’m going after it. It’s everything I got, points or no points. If it’s just practice, I like being on the top of the scoreboard even in practice. We’re digging as hard as we can go.”

If Martin were to make an improbable comeback, it would be historical in its own right. While he sits 108 back heading into the Sprint Cup Championship finale in Miami, consider that the largest deficit ever overcome with two races remaining occurred in 1992, when Alan Kulwicki trailed by 85 points but edged Bill Elliott for the Cup title by just 10 points; he overcame a 30-point deficit in that season’s finale.

"Heck, I'm not mathematically eliminated yet," said Martin after Phoenix. "We'll go to Homestead, and we've got to race for second yet. We've got a race on our hands with Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch. We're still racing like there's no tomorrow.

…And there isn’t: It all comes down to Miami, where you can see them drive for just $55. Parking is FREE at Homestead-Miami, and guests are welcome to “bring their own” food and beverage in a cooler measuring 6x6x12—with unlimited re-entry to allow for restocking in the parking lot. Tickets for the Sprint Cup Championship start at just $55 and are available by clicking here or by calling (866) 409-RACE.

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