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Last updateThu, 19 Nov 2015 8pm

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Phoenix provided Martin jump start a year ago

Hendrick Motorsports has the all-time lead in car owner victories at Phoenix International Raceway. Roush Fenway Racing is second. Mark Martin is involved in both totals.  
Martin has won two Sprint Cup races at Phoenix, 16 years apart. The first came in 1993, for owner Jack Roush. The second was last year, his first driving for Rick Hendrick. Both times, Martin ended the season with five victories. Both times he was a series championship contender, finishing third in 1993 and second last year.

Going into last Saturday night’s Subway Fresh Fit 600 at Phoenix, Martin was sitting in 17th place in the series standings, 214 behind series leader and teammate Jimmie Johnson. Martin was 50 points out of the 12th and final Chase position held by Red Bull driver Brian Vickers.
Even though Phoenix is only the seventh race on the schedule, drivers are already aware of the need to stay in the top 12. Don’t you just love points racing? Ugh.
Martin had the following comments prior to last weekend’s race: “Phoenix has been a great race track for me since I first started going there. I like the short track style, and I love night racing.
“I thought I was going to get a win here in 2008, and of course we did last year, which was just awesome. We had a great car there last fall, too.”
Last year’s Phoenix victory had added significance, as it immediately validated Martin’s decision to return to a full time Cup schedule to drive for, arguably, the sport’s top organization. It also validated Hendrick’s decision to hire the 50 year-old driver.
“I remember being nervous for that race,” Martin said. “But that’s only because I knew how good our car was. We had a winning car from the time we rolled off the truck last year. The guys on the team knew it, too, and I was so concerned with not disappointing them.
“We had a great race. Perfect pit stops. Very few adjustments all night. When we finally won, it was such a mix of relief and gratitude. It was an amazing night. One of those wins that I’m sure I’ll never forget. Absolutely incredible.”
Martin followed up that victory with a fourth place finish in Phoenix’s November race. Together the two 2009 races added to Martin’s already impressive history at the one-mile track that is a favorite of many of the drivers.
Martin drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to a fourth-place finish last Saturday night as teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon contended for the win. Ryan Newman was a popular, if surprising winner.  Kyle Busch dominated the race and appeared on the way to sweeping the weekend after winning Friday night’s Nationwide series race.
After out-dueling Jimmie Johnson for the lead, Busch was cruising toward his second win of the weekend when a caution flag came out with just three laps remaining. His pit stop would prove to be his undoing. When the lead lap cars pitted, Busch took four tires, and came out in eighth place, behind six cars that took only two, and Jimmie Johnson who also took on four tires.  Jeff Gordon beat everyone out of the pits, but Newman ducked inside on the restart and grabbed the lead. With just two laps to go, Busch and Johnson simply ran out of time to take advantage of their four fresh tires.
For Ryan Newman the win ended a 77-race winless streak. His last win was Daytona 500 in 2008 in his final season with Penske Racing. Prior to last season Newman signed with Tony Stewart’s newly formed Stewart Haas Racing. Saturday night’s race was career-win number 14.
Next up, the Sprint Cup series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Samsung Mobile 500.  The hot topic for Sunday’s race is sure to be the first appearance of the Car of Tomorrow, using a spoiler instead of that awful wing on a super speedway. Jeff Gordon is the defending race champion. His win at Texas in the spring of 2009 was the last time he visited victory lane. Hard to pick a favorite at Texas; in the 18 previous Cup races, there have been 15 different winners.
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