Mark “The Kid” Martin took his first ever victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and extended his lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Juan Pablo Montoya sat on the pole, and towards the end of the race looked a stong contender for his first oval victory, but his aggression eventually cost him second place to Denny Hamlin.
Martin took the lead thanks to an unusual pit strategy, which left him out of sequence with the leaders until the final stop of the race. The win was in the bag with only a few laps remaining…until all hell broke loose further down the field.
The only notable incident before the final stops was a multi-car pileup on Lap 167, triggered by Joey Logano tagging Elliot Saddler‘s Dodge into a spin, while Robby Gordon was collected by Michael Waltrip and Paul Menard trying to avoid the #19 and #20.
Montoya’s aforementioned aggression certainly wasn’t making him any friends on track, and after barging Jeff Burton out the way, Burton certainly got his feelings across to the Columbian, shoving him down the pit straight during the resulting caution.
The first of the many late cautions was triggered by David Reutimann on Lap 283, getting loose into Turn 3 and spinning out Dale Earnhardt Jr, who subsequently smashed into the wall backwards, ending his race. Earnhardt was clearly aggrivated afterwards; “The 00 can’t hold his line, went down in the bottom of the corner and lost it, ran into the side of my car and spun me out. We were probably one of the best cars here, David just run out of talent down there.”
AJ Allmendinger made contact with Marcos Ambrose on Lap 293, with AJ nearly spinning Ambrose into the wall at Turn 2. One lap later and Ambrose returned the favour, putting the #43 into the wall and causing another caution. By now Montoya had made his way up to 2nd, passing Hamlin, Kurt Busch and Jimme Johnson at the previous restart.
After Martin and Montoya had duelled for a few laps, the Hendrick driver finally pulled away slightly, leaving Montoya and Hamlin to do battle for 2nd. But the race result was decided before the end of the last lap, after Allmendinger got into another incident on the penultimate lap. Initially NASCAR officials let the race continue, but once it was clear the stricken #44 wouldn’t get going again fast enough, the Caution flags were thrown just as the leaders approached Turn 3, handing Martin the win, and securing 2nd for Hamlin, despite being overtaken at the last turn by Montoya.
50 year-old Martin put his race win down to the excellent work of Crew Chief Alan Gustafson rather than his own pace.
“Alan has really pulled off something big to figure out how to win a race with me here at Loudon,” said Martin. “That’s a big deal. I don’t get around this place that well. I have a lot of trust in Alan. I let him do his thing, and he’s brought so much support, you know, in so many areas, and unloaded so much off of my shoulders.”
Despite missing out on the win, Montoya was still positive ahead of the remaining 9 races, and that he would eventually take that first win on an Oval; “To come here, first Chase race, put on the pole, finish [third]. Can I ask for anything else? Not really. A win would be nice, but that will come.”
Early leader Tony Stewart could only manage 14th, after a very long pitstop mid-race to fix a problem with his rear axle. But the Chase driver with the worst weekend was undoubtedly Kasey Kahne, who suffered a blown engine on Lap 66.
Pos Driver Car Laps 1. Mark Martin Chevrolet 300 2. Denny Hamlin Toyota 300 3. Juan Montoya Chevrolet 300 4. Jimmie Johnson Chevrolet 300 5. Kyle Busch Toyota 300 6. Kurt Busch Dodge 300 7. Ryan Newman Chevrolet 300 8. Elliott Sadler Dodge 300 9. Greg Biffle Ford 300 10. Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 300 11. Brian Vickers Toyota 300 12. David Reutimann Toyota 300 13. Casey Mears Chevrolet 300 14. Tony Stewart Chevrolet 300 15. Jeff Gordon Chevrolet 300 16. Carl Edwards Ford 300 17. Jeff Burton Chevrolet 300 18. Marcos Ambrose Toyota 300 19. Jamie McMurray Ford 300 20. Martin Truex Jr Chevrolet 300 21. Joey Logano Toyota 300 22. Bobby Labonte Chevrolet 300 23. Matt Kenseth Ford 300 24. Robby Gordon Toyota 300 25. AJ Allmendinger Dodge 300 26. John Andretti Chevrolet 300 27. Michael Waltrip Toyota 298 28. David Stremme Dodge 298 29. Aric Almirola Dodge 297 30. Erik Darnell Ford 297 31. Scott Speed Toyota 297 32. Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 295 33. David Ragan Ford 287 34. Paul Menard Ford 287 35. Dale Earnhardt Jr Chevrolet 283 36. Reed Sorenson Dodge 263 37. Sam Hornish Jr Dodge 162 38. Kasey Kahne Dodge 66 39. Mike Wallace Toyota 48 40. Joe Nemechek Toyota 41 41. Michael McDowell Toyota 36 42. Dave Blaney Toyota 23 43. Tony Raines Dodge 8 Chase For The Cup - Points Standings: Pos Driver Change Points 1. Mark Martin -- 5230 2. Jimmie Johnson +1 5195 + 35 3. Denny Hamlin +1 5195 + 35 4. Juan Montoya +7 5175 + 55 5. Kurt Busch +2 5165 + 65 6. Tony Stewart -4 5156 + 74 7. Ryan Newman +3 5151 + 79 8. Brian Vickers 5140 + 90 9. Greg Biffle +3 5138 + 92 10. Jeff Gordon -4 5128 +102 11. Carl Edwards -2 5117 +113 12. Kasey Kahne -7 5069 +161
Photo Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR