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Mark Martin! In a gas-mileage thriller

Mark Martin -- the best season of his life? Sure looks like it, after his third win of the season (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


   By Mike Mulhern

   BROOKLYN, Mich.
   Yes, it was another fuel-mileage race, but this finish was certainly dramatic: Jimmie Johnson dominated the race, Greg Biffle challenged him hard down the stretch, but both men ran out of gas just two miles shy of the finish line, and Mark Martin pulled off his third Sprint Cup victory of the season winning the Michigan LifeLock 400.
   "Man, I want to drive this car forever," Martin said after the nail-biting finish. "Heck, I love this stuff.
     "This team deserves to be in the chase, so I was running for points. I thought those two guys were running too hard for us to save enough gas and still run with them.
    "But when I saw Jimmie run out, I said 'Hey, boys, I'm going for it!'
   "I thought we could make it…And then we ran out coming off turn four.
   "But this is great."
    Biffle was angry at the finish, but didn't know quite where to focus his anger. He was leading down the stretch, backing off to conserve fuel, as everyone was. But then Johnson charged up to take the lead with five laps to go in the 200-lapper.
   And instead of letting Johnson go, Biffle battled him. And the two ran out of gas as they took the white flag for the last lap.
    "Jimmie was driving like we weren't on a fuel mileage run….and I could run with him," Biffle said. "It just made me use too much throttle.
    "We would have made it; we had enough.
   "Unfortunately we cat-and-moused, and Mark won."
    "Jimmie and Greg just bated each other into running too hard," third-place finisher Denny Hamlin said.
   "I'm pretty sure everyone was short on fuel, without trying to save gas. But that does put it in the drivers' hands."
    Jeff Gordon wound up second, not bad for a guy who had to start at the back of the pack after blowing an engine in practice. "We had a top-five car, the pit stops were good, the car drove well, and we got up to the top-15 pretty easy," Gordon said. "But after that it got tough.
   "I know it was a fuel mileage race, but it was still good racing.
   "It's ironic those two guys had to push each other a little harder than they wanted to, and then ran out of gas.
   "The thing is if you don't see a lot of cautions, it's going to come down to fuel mileage. Last week at Pocono I was running out of gas the last corner too, but I passed three or four people were out of gas on that last lap. To me it's just as intense and difficult to win like this with fuel mileage as it is to go out there and pass guys."
    In fact there were only three yellows during the race, two for debris, a third for David Stremme's spin.


Good for Mark. Some people

Good for Mark. Some people don't like these gas mileage races, but they favor the people who hang in there and drive a clean, smart race. Glad he's got a good car and team.

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