Sunday, September 14, 2003

Martin races to milestone


NASCAR notebook: It's 500 consecutive starts and counting

The Associated Press

LOUDON, N.H. - Mark Martin is wondering what all the fuss is about. After all, he's just doing his job.

Martin will be making his 500th consecutive Winston Cup start in today's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway, a streak that dates to Feb. 14, 1988.

Considering he enters this race 14th in the season points and without a victory since May 2002 in Charlotte, Martin is a little surprised to find himself the center of attention.

"This is what I do for a living," Martin said. "We've had a lot of success and a lot of heartache, but I've had an opportunity to live out my dreams - and not a lot of people get to do that."

Martin will start 33rd in today's 43-car field, well behind pole-winner Ryan Newman and fellow front-row starter Terry Labonte.

Since teaming with owner Jack Roush in 1988, the diminutive driver from Arkansas has been a constant.

"I raced when there was a death in my family; I raced when I was sick; and I raced when I was broken up, and I kept a job," Martin said. "Keeping the job is first."

Only Ricky Rudd, who will start his 707th consecutive race Sunday, and Rusty Wallace, who will start his 616th straight, are ahead of Martin among active drivers.

The unassuming Martin has built a reputation for being a great competitor who rarely gets involved in controversy, on or off the track.

That's in direct contrast to some drivers in the newest generation of Winston Cup competitors whose aggressive style of racing and penchant for post-race confrontations have kept them in the headlines.

"All I know is that everyone has a driving personality and everyone has a particular code they go by," Martin said. "I've had a code all through my career and my code has garnered respect on the racetrack."

TRUCK SERIES: Jimmy Spencer held off Carl Edwards Saturday, bouncing the rookie off the wall on the way to a victory in just his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.

Edwards, winner of three of the previous seven races, appeared to have a faster truck but found himself stuck behind Spencer, a Winston Cup regular, on a restart with just 16 laps to go at New Hampshire International Speedway.

After the nudge, Edwards kept his truck under control and held off veteran Bobby Hamilton to finish second.

STATS AND SUCH: Jeff Burton led all 300 laps at New Hampshire International Speedway in this race in 2000, only the third time in NASCAR's modern era - since 1972 - that a driver has done that in a Winston Cup race. ... There have been eight different winners in the past eight races here.

Winston Cup leader breakdown

DRIVER POINTSSTARTSWINSTOP 5TOP 10EARNINGS
1. Matt Kenseth 3,8642611020$3,247,870
2. D. Earnhardt Jr. 3,4462619153,738,650
3. Kevin Harvick 3,4232619123,835,760
4. Jimmie Johnson 3,3632627114,235,560
5. Jeff Gordon 3,2712618123,705,730
6. Ryan Newman 3,25526610143,576,440
7. Bobby Labonte 3,20826110133,482,210
8. Kurt Busch 3,2052648114,145,140
9. Terry Labonte 3,082261482,786,900
10. Michael Waltrip 3,079261693,653,380

NASCAR today

Race: Sylvania 300, Loudon, N.H.

Time/TV: 1 p.m./TNT

Track: New Hampshire International Speedway (oval, 1.058 miles, 12 degrees banking in turns).

Race distance: 317.4 miles, 300 laps.

Last year's winner: Ryan Newman

Upcoming races

Today: New Hampshire 300, Loudon

Sept. 21: Dover 400, Dover, Del.

Sept. 28: EA Sports 500, Talladega, Ala.

Oct. 5: Kansas 400, Kansas City, Kan.

Oct. 11: UAW-GM Quality 500, Concord, N.C.

Oct. 19: Subway 500, Martinsville, Va.

Oct. 26: Georgia 500, Atlanta

Nov. 2: Checker Auto Parts 500, Avondale, Ariz.

Nov. 9: Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400, Rockingham, N.C.

Nov. 16: Ford 400, Homestead, Fla.

Key dates for 2004

Select race dates for the NASCAR Nextel Cup and the Busch series next year:

Feb. 15: Daytona 500

March 28: Food City 500, Bristol, Tenn.

April 25: Aaron's 499, Talladega, Ala.

May 30: Coca-Cola 600, Concord, N.C.

June 19: Busch series, Meijer 300, Sparta, Ky.

June 20: Race name, TBA, Brooklyn, Mich.

July 3: Pepsi 400, Daytona Beach

July 11: Tropicana 400, Joliet, Ill.

Aug. 8: Brickyard 400, Indianapolis

Aug. 22: Race name TBA, Brooklyn, Mich.

Aug. 28: Sharpie 500, Bristol, Tenn. (night race)

Oct. 3: EA Sports 500, Talladega, Ala.

Nov. 14: Southern 500, Darlington, SC. (moved from Labor Day)

Nov. 21: Ford 400, Miami (season finale)




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