Martin leads sweep of top 3 for Roush

Biffle, Edwards follow winner

Chase leader Stewart is fourth

October 10, 2005|By ED HINTON | ED HINTON,ORLANDO SENTINEL

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Jack Roush must have been practicing for the day that NASCAR limits him to three cars. His drivers swept only the first three positions in yesterday's Banquet 400.

Mark Martin, Roush's original driver on what is now a five-car team, got his first points-race win of the season (previously this year, he had won only the All-Star Challenge in Charlotte in May), with Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards second and third.

"I don't feel we had a sweep because we didn't have all five in the top five," Roush said, apparently only half-kidding. "But certainly we had a good spread."

Points leader Tony Stewart broke up the Roush rout a bit by finishing fourth. The other two Roush drivers, 2003 champion Matt Kenseth and '04 champion Kurt Busch, had to settle for fifth and 14th, respectively.

This was the 12th win of the season for the diminutive team owner who joked that NASCAR officials seemed to be playing a game of "Get Shorty" when they revealed a plan here Saturday to limit teams to three or fewer cars each in future seasons.

Even more pointedly, this was the Roush team's second 1-2-3 finish in five weeks. In Richmond, Va., in the last race of the regular season, Busch, Kenseth and Biffle paraded to the checkered flag.

For Martin, 46, who has become a true pessimist in the twilight of a career so fraught with heartbreak, his 35th career win was more a matter of relief than elation.

What worried him throughout the race was that he was dominating it. He led 139 of the 267 laps at Kansas Speedway, including the final 48. After the halfway point, he gave up the lead only in one-lap blips after pit stops.

"We got the lead before the halfway point, and we led the whole race - that's the formula for heartbreak in my world," Martin said, "because more often than not something goes wrong to spoil that.

"So I was relieved after the race. It wasn't the most exciting win of my career. It was one that was well-deserved by my team."

The teammates who chased him through the waning laps were perhaps happier for Martin than he was for himself.

Biffle, who despises losing as much as any driver, "was really excited following him; that sounds kind of funny," Biffle said. "Don't get me wrong, I was going to pass him if I could, but I was real excited following him ... thinking about him winning and that it would mean a lot to him."

"He's one of those people who gives so much to the sport and tries so hard," Edwards said, "that you can't help but be happy for someone like that. ... "

Martin moved up two spots, to seventh, in the Chase for the Nextel Cup standings, but still feared his shot at the championship had been devastated last week in Talladega, Ala., when he was caught up in an early wreck.

"Each race, [about] seven of the 10 Chasers finish in the top 10," Martin said. "How are we going to make up 140 points like that?"

He did make up 17, to close within 113 of Stewart. Ryan Newman remained second, 75 points back, and Biffle climbed to third, 88 behind.

Roush didn't think it was funny when he was asked whether this was indeed practice for a possible down-sized, three-car team.

"This is the third time this week you've tried to get my goat," Roush said to a reporter.

Ed Hinton writes for the Orlando Sentinel.

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