Mark Martin Wins Thrilling Race at Chicagoland, 4th Win of the Season
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It took the Hendrick Motorsport driver 41 laps to get the lead, following a quick stop for refuel and new tires. From that point on, Martin only increased the lead from his opponents, making it look like nothing will stop him from becoming race winner once again this year.
Later in the race, Martin would exchange lead with teammate Jimmie Johnson – following two consecutive cautions – and would face a tough final stint in Chicago. After the penultimate caution of the day, the #5 Chevrolet benefited from Brian Vickers and Danny Hamlin battling hard up front, as the two made contact and practically paved the way for Martin to retake the lead.
Martin's last challenge on Saturday night was holding off teammate Jeff Gordon in the final 7 laps of the race, following the last caution of the day – caused by Kyle Busch's dive into the barriers. Although on a fresh set of tires, the #24 Chevrolet was unable to challenge Martin for the win, settling for defending his runner-up spot ahead of Kasey Kahne's Dodge.
“That was fun! That's what life's all about right there. These guys deserve to win. We could have parked the car yesterday with an hour left in practice. But you know the best car doesn't usually win. The double-file restarts are to mess the best car up so he doesn't win to make it good for the fans, and it did but we luckily pulled it off anyway,” said Martin after the race.
Martin's win in Chicago gave the Hendrick Motosport driver a great boost inside the Top 12, as he is now 11th in the overall classification and in great position to making the Chase this year. Championship leader Tony Stewart had to settle for 4th overall, ahead of Hamlin, and is still a massive 175 points ahead of Gordon in the point standings.
Jimmie Johnson paid tribute to a slow restart after the 6th caution of the day and lost plenty of positions up front, finishing the race in 8th place, behind Ryan Newman and Brian Vickers. Completing the Top 10 were Clint Bowyer and Juan Pablo Montoya.
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