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Martin, U.S. Army Team Battle Through Tough Day in Atlanta

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Mark Martin and the U.S. Army/Dale Earnhardt Inc. team endured a tough outing in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Martin started 10th, but was never able to get a handle on his No. 8 Chevrolet. The veteran ran as low at 30th before battling back to a 22nd-place finish, while turning some of his fastest lap times late in the race.

“That felt like the longest race of my life,” said Martin. “You never want to run that way, but all you can do is hang in there and make the best out of a bad day. I really mean it when I say that I truly appreciate the effort of everyone on this U.S. Army team."

“These guys are really a pleasure to work with,” added Martin. “This team is made up of a group of real racers and they want nothing more than to win each week. We had a pretty bad day out there, but they soldiered on and never gave up and never stopped coming up with suggestions to make the car better. We’ll hang in there, keep working and we’ll come back and get this thing right. We're like our soldiers -- we don't quit, we just fight harder to complete the mission.”

Martin went a lap down to the leader on Lap 85 of 325. The team continued to work with the car’s handling under a series of cautions, but with little success. Martin went two laps down on Lap 156.

Still, the team continued to work with the car, refusing to give up. Their efforts started to see some light after massive adjustments on Lap 199. Martin broke back inside the top 25 on lap 220 and was able to hold his position for the remainder of the race at the 1.54-mile track.

Martin, who is 18th in the Sprint Cup driver point standings, will hand over the U.S. Army Chevy to rookie Aric Almirola at the next two Cup races -- Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on March 16 and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on March 30. He will return to action for the April 6th race at Texas Motor Speedway.