By U.S. Army RacingJune 11, 2007
LONG POND, Pa. (Army News Service, June 11, 2007) - Mark Martin and the U.S. Army Team used a combination of pit strategy and speed to earn a seventh-place finish in Sunday's rain-shortened Nextel Cup race at Pocono Raceway.
In one of the stranger races of the season, Mr. Martin and the team were forced to overcome a poor starting position at 35 and an early pit-road miscue.
But the end result was another strong performance for Mr. Martin, who claimed his seventh top-10 and 10th top-15 finish in the 11 races he has competed as part of his limited 2007 schedule with Ginn Racing. His worst finish was 17th.
Despite missing three races, Mr. Martin is 12th in the driver standings and the 01 Ginn Racing team ranks fifth in owner points.
"We had a pretty good car today," said Mr. Martin. "It handled really well, but we lacked the speed to run with the leaders. We got behind in qualifying, but passed a lot of cars early. Then we had a mix-up on pit road and had to come back from that as well."
Mr. Martin wasted little time moving through the field. He gained five positions on the first lap and powered his Chevy to inside the top 20 by Lap 24.
Mr. Martin was running 18th when he came down pit road on Lap 50, in an attempt to take four tires and fuel under caution. A miscommunication caused him to miss his pit box. The savvy veteran didn't hesitate as he immediately drove through the pits and went on to lead a lap. He returned to the pits on the following lap.
The miscue did earn Mr. Martin and the team five bonus points for leading a lap, but the Army Chevy was back in 35th place when the field went green on Lap 53.
Once again Mr. Martin began to patiently make his way through the field. He fought his way back to 23rd when the race's third and deciding caution was called on Lap 63.
With rain clouds looming Mr. Martin and a handful of cars, including eventual race winner Jeff Gordon, opted to stay out and run on an alternate pit cycle. Mr. Martin eventually pitted for fuel and four tires on Lap 84, and returned in 36th position with only 16 laps remaining before the halfway mark.
However, the leaders were forced to pit for fuel just before the halfway point. And when they pitted, that recycled Mr. Martin into seventh position, where he was running when persistent rain brought out the fourth and final caution on Lap 103. Three laps later the race was red-flagged and eventually called by NASCAR.
"The gamble worked and we were able to get a top 10 out of it," Mr. Martin said. "I just can't say enough about this U.S. Army team. They just don't give up and it's a pleasure to work with them and drive the Soldiers' car."
The next race for Mr. Martin and U.S. Army Team will be Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.