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NASCAR: Martin winning, having fun

By Mike Harris
Associated PressWhen Mark Martin got the opportunity to return to NASCAR Sprint Cup racing full time this season, he and wife Arlene had a couple of heart-to-heart talks.
“She and I were both apprehensive about coming back full-time because I’d been so happy in ’07 and ’08 doing what I was doing,” said Martin, who ran partial Cup schedules those years to be with his family. “I didn’t have any idea it could be like this. I’m really, really, really having fun.”
And the 50-year-old should be.
Competing against drivers mostly in their 20s and 30s, the graybeard of the Cup series is eighth in the standings after 15 races and on track to qualifying for the 12-man Chase for the championship and a chance to win his first title after finishing second four times.
Martin already has three wins this season, including last Sunday’s victory at Michigan, where he outlasted everyone ó barely ó in a fuel-mileage race.
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson, winner of the last three Cup championships, ran out of gas while leading with two laps to go. Greg Biffle’s tank went dry at the start of the final lap. And Martin ran out of gas coming off the fourth turn, but had enough to coast across the finish line for the 38th victory of his cup career.
“I haven’t won many of them like that,” Martin said. “Iusually lose those gas things.”
Despite the success, this season hasn’t been all positive. Martin and his No. 5 Chevrolet team could have been even higher in the standings, with perhaps another win or two, if it hadn’t been for some bad luck.
Hendrick turned to his newest driver and said, “Tell them what you called and told me Friday.”
“You know, he thinks I’m full of it,” said Martin, who is signed through next season. “I didn’t think I was going to get fired right now, but if I keep qualifying 32nd every week, he needs to fire me. Everybody can act like that’s stupid, but it isn’t really stupid. I’m serious. If I can’t do better than that in the stuff that they’re giving me, they’re going to need to get somebody else.”

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