Rejuvenated Martin triumphs at Darlington

By Pete Iacobelli
Associated Press / May 10, 2009
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DARLINGTON, S.C. - If Mark Martin keeps winning like this, even he might have to concede that he's racing for a Sprint Cup championship.

The 50-year-old Martin won for the second time in four races, outlasting Jimmie Johnson in a wreck-filled show at Darlington Raceway last night.

Martin's only other Darlington win was in 1993 Southern 500.

Martin's victory ended a long, hot day for NASCAR that began with the sobering news of Jeremy Mayfield's failed drug test and indefinite suspension.

Martin considered driving away for good a few years ago but re-upped with Hendrick Motorsports for 2010 last week. He ended a 97-race winless streak in Phoenix last month and proved there's no age limit on mastering the track "Too Tough To Tame."

Martin led the final 46 laps in his 37th career Sprint Cup win.

"Once we got out front, man, it was just easy. The car was awesome," Martin said.

Besides his two Darlington victories in NASCAR's top series, Martin has won a record eight Nationwide Series races at the track.

This time, Martin had to show as much patience as speed, handling a record 17 cautions on Darlington's 2-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 after the track was freshly paved.

Johnson wrecked in qualifying and had to start 42d. He made it all the way to Martin's bumper before settling for second.

Tony Stewart was third, followed by Ryan Newman and points leader Jeff Gordon. Brad Keselowski, in seventh, put all four Hendrick cars in the top seven.