For Mark Martin 2009 has been a great year, no matter what the outcome is in November.
The numbers don’t lie he, started the season off with three of four races with finishes of 30th or worse. He was climbing out of a hole that saw him threatening to not make the top 35 in owner’s points a guaranteed starting position for each race.
Martin's season started to turn around at Bristol where he scored his first top 10 of the year. Slowly he began to climb out of the basement in the points standings and rattled off wins at Phoenix and Darlington.
His position in the points was never secure even with all the wins. He had just as many poor finishes as there were wins.
Heading into the Chase, Martin sat atop the standings with a series leading four victories. Martin has had fast racecars both for qualifying and the race.
Last Sunday he won his fifth race of the year with strong strategy and solid pit stops. He retained his lead in the standings heading into Dover.
On Friday Mark Martin sat atop the speed charts for most of the practice but fell back late. He ran 11 laps and his fastest lap was his final lap where he ran a lap in 23.1 seconds. He was ninth fastest in practice.
For qualifying he had a late draw but still couldn’t find the speed and settled for a 14th place starting position.
They had to get to work in the first practice if they wanted to find the speed and the set up for the race on Sunday.
Martin struggled a bit with the tire compound and ran a fast lap on his first lap of 23.9 seconds.
He ran 28 laps total during that practice and his speed put him 12th on the speed charts.
Heading into final practice they were working on race trim and they seemed to find something late in practice. He ran 49 laps total and his fastest lap was lap 32. A fast lap of 23.8 seconds had him sitting fourth on the speed charts.
The final practice gave them something to build on heading into the race.
The race track though was very different from the conditions they practiced in. The heavy rains washed off the rubber that had been laid on the track on Saturday.
Martin quickly began to fall back to 18th but as the run stayed green he began to move forward. He was still a half a lap behind then leader Jimmie Johnson.
The competition caution came out on lap 25 and Martin came in 15th position. Martin and his team did four tires and air pressure adjustments.
He came out in 16th. Martin knew that on the long run they should be better.
By lap 75 he was in the top 10, but was really free in clean air but was also loose in. When Michael Waltrip hit the wall on lap 85 they were going for one round in the left rear and four tires and fuel. They came in 10th but went out ninth after a solid stop.
Martin moved forward after the restart and was in the top five, on their next stop they were going to take a wedge out of the left rear.
Martin struggled on the restart and fell back, on the next stop they decided to put a pound back into the left rear, as he was struggling with the handling. He told his crew he was really tight in the corners.
On restarts Martin really did struggle, he would consistently lose positions, so late restarts would hurt Martin but as they got going they would pick up positions but at this point it was too late.
Martin finished second but ran a smart race and earned this finish after he struggled throughout this race with a car that had no grip.
His finish kept him as the point’s leader over Johnson by just 10 points.
Martin shrugs off all the hype about his possible championship but the talk is real and Martin could make history come November.
Check out Jen Preston's Lugnut Report on Kyle Busch.