FONTANA, Calif. (Army News Service, Feb. 26, 2007) - U.S. Army driver Mark Martin left California Speedway leading the Nextel Cup driver point standings after posting a fifth-place finish in Sunday's Auto Club 500.

It was the second consecutive top-five result for Martin, who finished runner-up by a few feet in last week's season-opening Daytona 500. The last time the racing icon led the point standings was Sept. 22, 2002. It is also the first time a Ginn Racing driver (formerly MB2 Motorsports) has led the NASCAR Cup driver point standings.

Running in ninth place, Martin and crew chief Ryan Pemberton took a gamble when they decided not to pit when the caution flew with eight laps remaining in the 250-lap event. When the race was restarted after being red flagged for approximately 15 minutes, Martin's No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet charged to the checkered flag with a top-five finish.

"I'm just proud to represent the United States Army and to work with this team - man, this is just awesome," said Martin. "We had a really fast car and I'm very encouraged. The pit stops were excellent."

It's nice to lead the points, but it's even better to be competitive," added Martin. "All in all, we have potential to get up there and win a race. I think we've shown that the last two weeks."

Martin started the race third and at times exhibited a car strong enough to win. However, the team would be forced to overcome an untimely caution that put Martin a lap down early.

"That was a bad break, but Mark hung in there until we got our lap back," said Pemberton. "We made the decision to stay out at the end and it turned out to be the right call. We're off to a good start and it's been a total team effort."

The Nextel Cup Series is off this weekend and will resume competition March 11 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.