Martin's 4th win in row ties NASCAR record

September 06, 1993|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Mark Martin skipped into the post-race interview last night.

"Can't dance, can't sing," he said, the worry displayed earlier this weekend displaced by a boyish exuberance.

"This is a great win, and I can't tell you how much it means," he said. "I know I've said that after other victories, but this one -- this one is really special. I really didn't believe we could beat the odds. The competitors, yes, I thought we could beat them. But not the odds."

Neither a three-hour rain delay nor darkness could stand in the way of Martin and his Valvoline Ford, yesterday, as he raced to victory and into the record books at the Mountain Dew Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

For the fourth straight week, Martin won on the Winston Cup circuit to tie the NASCAR modern-day record that dates to 1972.

Martin's four victories have come on a road course at Watkins Glen, on a 2-mile superspeedway in Michigan, on a short track at Bristol, Tenn., and on Darlington's storied 1.3-mile midsize track, the sport's oldest superspeedway.

Before Martin's string began, he had only one victory at these four tracks -- at Michigan in 1990.

He was also winning for the second time this weekend and for the sixth time overall, having won two Busch Grand National races. Yesterday's win made him the first driver in Darlington history to win the Winston Cup race and the Saturday companion race on the same weekend.

It was an amazing performance by the 34-year-old who arrived at the track at 8 a.m., spent the morning meeting fans and signing autographs in his sponsor's hospitality suite and whiled away the afternoon visiting with competitors, "and bumming their food for a post-lunch lunch."

After waiting for eight hours, Martin, evidently stress free because "the way it was raining, I was sure we weren't going to run this thing until Monday," climbed in his car and destroyed the field.

He led 168 laps before a yellow caution flag bunched the field and NASCAR shortened the 367-lap race because of approaching darkness.

When the green flag came out on lap 341, there was a 10-lap sprint to the finish. Martin led all 10 and was never challenged.

He beat Brett Bodine to the finish line by 1.46 seconds at an average speed of 137.534 mph, but barely had time to enjoy his success before the obvious question surfaced: Can he make it five in a row at Richmond International Raceway Saturday night?

"We're running really well, and we feel really good," Martin said. "And I know that there are longer odds there than there were here and that it keeps getting harder. It would be really neat and we're going to try. But if the string breaks there, we've had a good string. No matter what, they can't take these four away from me."

Yesterday, when the Southern 500 finally took the green flag under caution at 4 p.m., Martin found his drive to the front contested.

First Winston Cup points leader Dale Earnhardt, who had heard criticism this weekend suggesting he was no longer racing to win but to protect his lead, charged to the front.

Earnhardt drove on the edge all afternoon, until, trying to get back to second place in the final 10-lap --, he nearly went over the edge. As he attempted to pass Bodine, his Goodwrench Chevrolet got loose in some water leaking from Bodine's car and nearly crashed in turn four. He finished fourth but kept a 304-point lead over third-place finisher Rusty Wallace.

Martin's next challenge came from Ernie Irvan, who was driving his first race for the former Davey Allison Havoline team. But after mounting an early attack that nearly wrecked Earnhardt, Martin, Bodine and himself, he drove a steady race and remained in contention until he misjudged the entrance to pit road on lap 335, spun and hit the pit wall, bringing out the last caution of the day. He finished a lap down in fifth.

And finally Bodine gave chase from a distance that even the final caution flag, which bunched the field for the final 10 laps, couldn't lessen.

"We just weren't good enough on fresh tires," said Bodine. "I chased Mark all day long and just couldn't get there. I held on for second, and I felt good about that."

1. (4) Mark Martin, Ford Thunderbird, 351, $67,765, 137.534. 2. (12) Brett Bodine, Ford Thunderbird, 351, $40,690. 3. (11) Rusty Wallace, Pontiac Grand Prix, 351, $27,495. 4. (6) Dale Earnhardt, Chevrolet Lumina, 351, $31,090. 5. (10) Ernie Irvan, Ford Thunderbird, 350, $28,395. 6. (16) Ricky Rudd, Chevrolet Lumina, 350, $16,940. 7. (2) Harry Gant, Chevrolet Lumina, 350, $19,945. 8. (21) Morgan Shepherd, Ford Thunderbird, 349, $16,025. 9. (1) Ken Schrader, Chevrolet Lumina, 349, $19,195. 10. (31) Kenny Wallace, Pontiac Grand Prix, 348, $14,255.

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