NASCAR: Martin wins at Chicagoland
JOLIET, Ill. ó Mark Martin won at Chicagoland Speedway, getting the strong jump off the double-file restart with two laps left to win his series-high fourth race of the season.
The 50-year-old Martin led 195 laps on Saturday night, the most at the 400-mile race. He dominated most of the early part of the race until he dropped the lead to Jimmie Johnson with just over 40 laps left.
But a frantic finish that saw Johnson and Kurt Busch tangle on the track allowed Martin his chance to regain the lead.
“That was fun,” Martin said. “That’s what life is all about.”
Jeff Gordon’s hard-charging finish got him second place. He made a late pit stop for four fresh tires which helped him quickly make up ground and earn his third runner-up finish in the last five races.
Martin and Gordon are Hendrick Motorsports teammates and earned a $1 million bonus for a Colorado family. The teammates also grabbed the top two spots at the LifeLock sponsored race in June, setting up the shot at the big cash prize.
“I saw Jeff coming and I was like, ‘Get it, get it,’ ” Martin said. “I wanted him to get it. This is really, really special. Incredible what everybody does for us.”
Not only that, they gave team owner Rick Hendrick a nice early birthday present. Hendrick turns 60 on Sunday.
“It’s slightly early birthday present,” Martin said just a few ticks before midnight eastern.
Martin might still be racing and winning races at 60. He shows no signs of slowing down, getting on the radio at one point to say “this is easy.”
Not for Kyle Busch.
Busch had a dreadful night, and was unruly on the radio as his No. 18 car was on the track and finished 33rd. He complained all race about his car to his crew and fell to 10th in the points standings.
Kyle Busch had shared the series lead for wins (three) with Martin.
Martin went from 13th to 11th to propel himself into contention for a spot in the Chase for the championship.
Kasey Kahne was third. Points leader Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Hamlin briefly took the lead late when he pushed past Johnson off a restart. Johnson got loose and bumped into Busch. Busch slammed back, sparking chaos and some ill feelings.
“Everyone was going for a win right there,” Hamlin said. “(Johnson’s) had his fair share.”
Just not here at Chicagoland.
Johnson, who let the checkered flag slip away in the final laps last year, is still searching for his first career victory at the track just outside Chicago. He told his crew before the race he owed them a win.
Busch and Johnson picked up where they left off after they also ran into each other three races back at Sonoma. Busch finished 17th on Saturday night and criticized Johnson’s performance on the track.
“I am starting to lose faith in his ability as a three-time champion,” Busch said.
Johnson accused Busch of “bodyslamming” him on the track.
Greg Biffle fell out of the top 12 in the points standings and Kahne moved from 12th to eighth.