AVONDALE, Ariz. How did 54-year-old Mark Martin beat all those kids Friday for the pole at Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500?
“He’s not afraid to stand on the gas, for starters,’’ third-place finisher Jimmie Johnson said, in clear awe of Martin’s enduring skill.
Martin drove a lap of 138.074 mph, edging out Kasey Kahne and Johnson for the top spot. Whatever Martin’s advanced age gives away, he just might make up in wisdom: He doesn’t inflict himself on crew chief Rodney Childers’ mechanical decisions and he knows how much risk to take through the corners of one lap.
“All I think about is, ‘How do I put it right on the edge without going over?’ I know I can’t do that for a second lap,’’ Martin said.
Martin, a workout freak, says he doesn’t know whether his conditioning made a difference early in his career, but…
“There’s no doubt the longevity of my career is hugely dependent on that,’’ said Martin, who might be in his last season. “At this stage of the game, it’s pretty amazing I could be driving for a race team like this.’’
Busch to the backup: Kurt Busch got loose in his qualifying run, and the car was damaged sufficiently that he’ll go to his backup Chevrolet and will start at the back of the pack Sunday.
Danica a week later: Two things were apparent from Danica Patrick’s comments Friday:
First, she doesn’t assume one good race means she’s figured all this out. Two, she doesn’t want to be marginalized by her gender.
Winning the pole and finishing eighth at the Daytona 500 was a measurable sign of progress as she works her way through Sprint Cup competition. But superspeedways like Daytona are the easiest carryover from her open-wheel background. Figuring out a relatively flat, 1-mile track like Phoenix is more of an adjustment.
“I need to keep realistic expectations, and I think everybody else does, too,’’ Patrick said. “We’re going to have great weekends like maybe last weekend. And we’re going to have bad ones. I don’t know where they are going to pop up, but I don’t doubt that they will.’’
She was asked about being one of 13 drivers ever to lead a lap in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500. Sounds like that meant more to her than whatever distinguishes her accomplishments as a female driver.
“I hope that when I am done racing, that people remember me as a great driver. And, if they remember me as a great girl driver, that’s fine, too,’’ Patrick said. “I feel like (leading at both Daytona and Indy) is one of those statistics that’s just genderless, and that’s pretty neat for me.’’
Earnhardt disappointed: NASCAR has indefinitely suspended Nationwide driver Jeremy Clements for using racially-insensitive language while speaking with a media member.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., was asked about that punishment and was clearly disappointed in Clements’ lack of judgment, and how that reflects negatively on NASCAR.
“I don’t like it and there’s no room for that in my life,’’ Earnhardt said, adding, “One person’s mistake looks bad on a lot of people and looks bad on the sport.’’
|12.||17||R. Stenhse, Jr.||Ford||136.731|
|14.||56||M. Truex, Jr.||Toyota||136.602|
|21.||88||D. Earnhrdt, Jr.||Chevy||135.870|
|23.||51||A J Allmndngr||Chevy||135.440|
|29.||42||J. P. Montoya||Chevy||134.821|