By David FerroniSeptember 8, 2008
RICHMOND, Va. (Army News Service, Sept. 8, 2008) - Mark Martin and the No. 8 U.S Army/Dale Earnhardt Inc. team overcame poor track position and a pair of slow pit stops to rebound for a fifth-place finish in Sunday's weather-delayed Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
"This was a great effort by this U.S. Army team," said Martin, who posted his third top-five finish of the season. "We had poor track position most of the day and then got behind on a bad pit stop. But these guys just dug in and we fought back for a top-five."
"We had a really good Chevy Impala SS today, but it was hard to pass in all the traffic," added Martin. "Qualifying getting rained out on Friday hurt us, as we would have probably started closer to the front and had a lot less traffic to deal with."
Martin started 17th based on Sprint Cup owner points, after qualifying was rained out due to persistent rains brought in from Tropical Storm Hanna. The storm also forced the postponement of the race from Saturday night until Sunday afternoon.
Once the race started Martin patiently moved from 17th to 12th in just 35 laps. However, during the first pit stop, Martin struggled getting into the pits and lost four spots. He ran the next 130 laps in and around the 15th position, before coming down pit road after the race's seventh caution on Lap 202 of 400.
Martin took four tires and fuel under the caution, but a problem on the front of the stop cost the team 11 positions, falling back to 25th.
"It would have been easy to let that ruin our day," said Martin. "But this is the Army team and we're like our soldiers. When things aren't going our way, we fight harder and never give up. This is just an incredible group of guys. Tony Gibson (crew chief) and the crew just went to work trying to figure out how to get us back up front and they came up with a solid strategy that really paid off."
Gibson opted for right side tires only during the team's fifth pit stop on Lap 227. Martin returned in 19th position and advanced all the way to 13th when the yellow flag flew on Lap 241.
Martin and Gibson decided to skip a pit stop and the veteran restarted in second position on Lap 246. The calculated move paid off as Martin ran inside the top five for the majority of the remaining laps.
The finish was Martin's ninth top-10 in 18 starts this season and his second top-five at Richmond in 2008. It also marked his 15th career top-five finish at the .75-mile track. In addition it is the 242nd top-five finish of Martin's career and his 394th top-10.
The No. 8 DEI team closed out the first 26 races of the 2008 season in 15th position in the Sprint Cup owner standings.
Martin will hand the wheel over to co-driver Aric Almirola next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, before returning to action the following weekend in Dover, Del.