The Callahan Report: Racing Luck Gives Martin Victory in Texas

5 April 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

Mark Martin
Mark Martin
FORT WORTH, TX: Mark Martin was driving the third fastest car at the Texas Motor Speedway for the second annual Texas 500. Thanks to some racing luck, that was good enough. Martin was able to walk away from Texas with his second victory in the 1998 NASCAR Winston Cup season. He also won at Las Vegas earlier this year.

"I paced myself all day long. Sure enough, the complexion of the race changed just when we thought it would," said Martin. "I didn't have a bit of trouble all day."

Martin earned more than $350,000 for his patience today. He also moved up considerably in the series points standings. Martin came into Texas in seventh place. He finished the day fourth in the Winston Cup points. Rusty Wallace remains the Winston Cup points leader. Wallace finished 12th today.

The racing Gods say "He who is faster off the corners will win the race." That prophecy is true unless the unfortunate driver has a flat tire.

The two fastest cars and drivers had tire problems. Jeremy Mayfield emerged as the dominate driver early in the race. His Ford Taurus was able to pull away from the rest of the field, except one. Jeff Burton could catch Mayfield late in every green flag sequence. The two drivers swapped the lead several times before both were put several laps down due to flat tires. Burton got into the wall when his tire went flat. Mayfield blew a tire in the middle of the front straight. He was able to keep his car away from the Texas concrete but lost two laps in the process.

Jeff Burton
Jeff Burton
"I thought we had the two best cars and neither of us will get a chance to show what we really had, unfortunately," Burton said.

After Mayfield and Burton were out of the way, it was a feeding frenzy for the rest of the field. Roush Racing teammates, Chad Little and Mark Martin, eventually went to the top of the field. They battled furiously the last 10 laps of the race. Both drivers were never to far from the front all day, but they could not challenge the Fords of Burton and Mayfield.

Drivers who have never won on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit should start liking the Texas Motor Speedway very much. Last year, the track launched the career of Jeff Burton. Burton had never won a NASCAR Winston Cup event. After his win in Texas, he went on to win three more times in 1997. Today, It was Chad Little who led the way in his Jack Roush prepared Ford Taurus. Little was the leader on several occasions and was pressing Martin hard at the finish.

Another driver who has never won a Winston Cup event was able to post his best finish. Robert Pressley, driving the Jasper Engines Ford Taurus, finished third. He was able to hold of some of the sports best racers today in Texas. Pressley held his ground and raced hard. He earned his top three finish.

The biggest names in NASCAR were taken out at the start of the second lap. Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, along with eight others were involved. Gordon spent more than 30 minutes getting attention from his Rainbow Warriors pit crew. Earnhardt was in the garage area even longer. Both were running at the finish, several laps down.

Rick Mast, who was also involved in the opening crash, said "When you have a one-groove race track and somebody gets crossed up, when they're all bunched up the first lap or two of a race, there's gonna be a big wreck. It's just unfortunate that two years in a row it's had to happen to us here."

The big story leading into the Texas 500 was the track conditions. Water was seeping onto the track surface in turn one during the practice sessions. The water seepage problem was not an issue during the race. The water was quickly dried by the cars running on the track. Water was not a problem yesterday during the Busch Grand National race either. However, as soon as the 300 mile race was completed, the water started appearing in turn one. The leak was so bad that the final Winston Cup practice session had to be canceled. The track received much criticism this week and will certainly take measures to correct the problem. They will have to act quickly. The Indy Racing League makes an appearance in Texas in less than three months.

There were three Chevrolets in the top ten, along with six Fords and one Pontiac. Joe Nemecheck drove the top finishing Monte Carlo to a fourth place finish. Terry Labonte, also in a Monte Carlo was sixth. Steve Grissom also scored a top ten finish for Chevrolet. Bobby Labonte was driving the lone Pontiac in the top then (eighth).

Greg Sacks was injured in a mid race crash. Safety crews had to cut the car apart to the injured driver. The emergency crews peeled back the sheet metal on top of the car and then cut away the roll cage. Sacks was placed on a backboard and taken to a nearby hospital. He was reported to be awake and alert.

Mike Skinner was injured in a separate crash. He was also taken to the hospital with a possible broken shoulder.

There will be no NASCAR Winston Cup racing next weekend due to the Easter holiday. NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway in Virginia in two weeks.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article are available for larger viewing in The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery

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