Martin extends Chase lead

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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

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