If Mark Martin keeps winning like this, even he might have to concede that he is racing for a Sprint Cup championship.
Martin, 50, won for the second time in the last four races, outlasting Jimmie Johnson in a wreck-filled show at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night.
“Once we got out front, man, it was just easy,” Martin said. “The car was awesome.”
Martin’s only other Darlington win was in the 1993 Southern 500, a 16-year stretch.
Martin led the final 46 laps in his 37th career Sprint Cup victory. He had to show as much patience as speed, handling a record 17 cautions on Darlington’s two-year-old pavement.
The wrecks surpassed the previous high of 15 set in Darlington’s spring race 14 years ago, and more than doubled the eight of last year.
Johnson wrecked in qualifying and had to start 42nd. He made it all the way to Martin’s bumper before settling for second.
Tony Stewart, who finished third, said, “This is one of the most difficult places we run.”
Ryan Newman, Stewart’s teammate, was fourth, followed by the points leader Jeff Gordon. Brad Keselowski, in seventh, put all four Hendrick cars in the top seven.
CASTRONEVES WINS INDY POLE Less than a month after being acquitted of charges of tax evasion, Helio Castroneves was right where he wanted to be, back in the cockpit and on the pole for the Indianapolis 500.
On a windy day full of strategic guesses on when to qualify and when to stay off the track, Castroneves took a big gamble, voiding a fast qualifying effort from earlier in the day and knocking his Penske Racing teammate Ryan Briscoe off the pole.
Castroneves’s four-lap average of 224.864 miles per hour on the two-and-a-half-mile oval came with less than two hours remaining in the six-hour opening round of time trials for the May 24 race.
MAYFIELD SUSPENDED Jeremy Mayfield was suspended indefinitely by Nascar for failing a random drug test, becoming the first driver to violate a toughened policy that went into effect this season. Mayfield tested positive for a banned substance last weekend at Richmond International Raceway.
The Nascar spokesman Jim Hunter would not reveal what substance Mayfield used but said it was not alcohol-related.
Nascar also indefinitely suspended Tony Martin, a crew member for the car John Andretti drove, and Ben Williams, a crew member for the Nationwide Series car Matt Kenseth drove, for failed tests at Richmond.
by the associated press