By U.S. Army RacingMarch 19, 2007
HAMPTON, Ga. (Army News Service, March 19, 2007) - Mark Martin closed out the fifth-longest consecutive race streak in NASCAR Cup history with a 10th-place finish in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Martin's 621 consecutive race streak began Feb. 14, 1988, at the Daytona 500.
With his fourth straight top-10 finish of the season, the U.S. Army Chevrolet driver maintained his lead in the Nextel Cup driver point standings. He left Atlanta with an eight-point lead over Jeff Gordon.
"It is really cool and I guess it's kind of a storybook way to go out after chasing those points so hard for the last 20 years," said Martin. "It's definitely the way to do it and I just can't say enough about this U.S. Army Race team. They are a fabulous team and an awesome group of guys. It's great to finally see them get the recognition they deserve. I sure wish I had been driving their car a little sooner."
"I get so many e-mails from our troops and it makes me even more happy that the Soldiers' car is on top of the standings," added Martin. "Our Soldiers inspire all of us and I am so proud to represent them."
Martin, who is driving a limited schedule for Ginn Racing, will miss the next two Nextel Cup races in Bristol (March 25) and Martinsville (April 1). Rookie Regan Smith will drive the 01 Army car in those two events before Martin returns for the Texas Motor Speedway race on April 15.
This is the third time in Martin's career that he has started the season with four straight top 10s. The other two times were in 1995 and 2000. Martin's other finishes in 2007 were: second at Daytona and fifth at both California and Las Vegas.
Martin, who started the race fourth after a strong qualifying effort on Friday, struggled with a loose racecar early in the event, dropping as far back as 16th.
However, crew chief Ryan Pemberton and the No. 01 team refused to give up, continuing to work on the Chevrolet in hopes of improving the handling. By Lap 270 of 325 Martin had driven the car back to the 11th position. And when the race's fifth caution was called (Lap 272), the Army over-the-wall crew came through with one of its quickest stops of the day, sending Martin back out in ninth position. The veteran driver would run the remainder of the race inside the top 10.
"We weren't as good today as we had been the first couple of races," said Martin. "But the guys on the Army team never gave up - just like our Soldiers. We were able to gain positions on pit road during those last two stops and bring home a top-10 finish."
"They also allowed me to leave here as the points leader and I have to thank them for all they have done for me this year," continued Martin.
Following Sunday's race, Martin quickly put to rest any rumors about his plans for next weekend.
"I'm looking forward to next weekend," said Martin. "I just want to thank all the fans for their support, especially with this U.S. Army car and what we have going on. I know a lot of people still don't believe that I won't be racing next weekend, but they will have a really hard time finding me.
"We've worked really hard since January and we've put a lot into this. It's been a hard-working stretch and I'm looking forward to taking a little break."