By U.S. Army RacingFebruary 20, 2007
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Army News Service, Feb. 20, 2007) - "I just can't tell you how bad I wanted it," said Mark Martin seconds after climbing out of his No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet following Sunday's Daytona 500. "We gave it our best shot - we were within inches of getting it done."
"All I asked for was a chance to win and they (Ginn Racing and the No. 01 U.S. Army Team) gave me that today. I never asked for the trophy, I just asked for a real shot at it and that's exactly what I had - my best-ever opportunity to win the Daytona 500."
Martin led 26 of the final 27 laps before being overtaken by Kevin Harvick at the finish line. Harvick's margin of victory was 0.020 seconds.
"When I looked up there at the end, I was minus any pushers," explained Martin. "I didn't have any help to get it done, and that's the way it goes."
Martin was in the lead when cars started crashing on the final lap, but the caution surprisingly never came out. Had NASCAR waved the yellow flag, the 48-year Martin would have been declared the winner.
The second-place result was Martin's career-best Daytona 500 result. His previous best was third in 1995.
"I'm so proud of the effort that we gave here tonight and so proud to represent the U.S. Army," added Martin. "This is the Soldiers' car and I hope we made them proud today."
Martin started the race 26th and spent much of the day patiently and methodically working his way through the draft, while in constant communication with crew chief Ryan Pemberton on how to improve the car's performance.
Martin moved inside the top 10 on Lap 144 and broke inside the top five nine laps later.
Running fourth when a caution came out on Lap 156, a 13.6-second stop by the U.S. Army crew sent Martin to second place when green-flag racing resumed.
Martin spent the next several laps battling the front runners, but was unable to overtake the leader, eventually being shuffled back to eighth before the fourth caution of the race.
Pemberton opted for two-tires on the next pit stop and Martin returned to the field leading the Daytona 500. He would lead the remainder of the race, with the exception of the final inches.
"We were so close and I just hope that I gave all of our Soldiers something to cheer about," said Martin. "I really wanted to win with all my heart. I'm honored to work with this Army team, and this was a great way to kick off my start with Ginn Racing."