News & Media

Martin, McGrew make call, score runner-up

May 15, 2011, Dave Rodman,

DOVER, Del. -- Mark Martin and Lance McGrew were sick of ending up back in the Sprint Cup pack with good race cars, so Sunday at Dover International Speedway they turned a no-tire call into a runner-up finish in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks.

"We just about pulled one off there," Martin said of his eighth career Dover second place. "We would have had to be a little bit faster [to have a shot to win]."

"It looked like we were going to get 15th again with a really fast race car. We've had a race car this good a lot this year."


Martin, who came out of his car raving about how much he loves Dover, despite the track's treacherous nature, knew how good his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was for 360 laps -- though he could hardly show it while mired in varying degrees of traffic.

Martin's state of mind was borne out by one of his last comments, when he was asked how slippery the track was, late in the race.

"It was almost dangerous," Martin said. "Before that last caution came out I felt like it was dangerous. I just didn't feel like I could pass anyone without getting in a wreck, unless they allowed you to clear them. You couldn't run side-by-side [but] it was great -- a great Dover."

And that made his call, quickly seconded by crew chief McGrew, an easy one.

"We had a really fast race car and [Sunday] we finally got a finish," Martin said. "It looked like we were going to get 15th again with a really fast race car. We've had a race car this good a lot this year [but] it seems like for some reason or another we wind up in the back of the pack and we just don't have enough to climb our way back to the front."

* Press Pass: Martin happy finish reflected car

So when the sixth and final caution flew on Lap 363, with their car just inside the top-15, Martin and McGrew quickly agreed not to pit. They were the only lead lap car not to visit the service alley.

It resulted in their first top-five finish this season and vaulted them up three spots in the standings, into 11th.

"[Martin] brought it up and that's what I wanted to do so when he said it, I said, 'Hell yeah, stay out,' " McGrew said, chuckling. "Because I felt like everybody was going to pit and our car was so good."

Every other lead lap car did pit, with Martin staying out on tires that McGrew said had 25 laps on them at the final restart. Race winner Matt Kenseth was one of six leading cars to opt for two tires on the stop and lined up next to Martin for the Lap 367 restart. McGrew was feeling good about their decision.

"We lost track position one time because we had a miscue in the pits and we lost track position another time when we slid through the pit box," McGrew said. "And with 19 cars [on the lead lap] your car is just not good back there -- I don't care how fast it is. So even with 25 laps on the tires, [Kenseth] was the only car that was better than us, at the end.

"With the way the rubber laid down on the race track, you could catch the guy in front of you, but you couldn't go anywhere to pass him."

Kenseth confirmed Martin's reason for optimism after he stayed out.

"It was difficult [to pass]," Kenseth said. "The hardest thing, for me, was that they wouldn't, or couldn't get the rubber cleaned up for a restart, and if you were stuck on the bottom, the leader could get going and you had to run in that stuff for two laps and it was so much slower.

"I was really concerned about that, because Mark took the top [lane for the restart] and he really likes to run the bottom and I would have felt a little bit better. But I got behind him, was able to run up on him and with the new tires and being able to get the gas down that early we were able to get a pretty good run on him."

"Like I said earlier this week, all the cars are almost the same speed, so it's incredibly difficult," Martin said. "This is the era of NASCAR racing that we have today. Twenty years ago, there weren't so many cars the same speed and passing and overtaking was easy. Not so easy now because you have the world's greatest drivers, 40 deep [and] 40 darn good race cars out there, too. That's to be expected."

After the final restart, Martin had the field's fastest first lap, but Kenseth passed him on Lap 369 and was the quickest in the field for at least the next two laps. That was game over, according to McGrew.

"I just didn't feel like anybody could come through, to pass us, even with taking tires, coming from that far back," McGrew said. "Matt did, early in that [last] run, but then we pretty much mirrored his lap times the rest of that time."

"I feel like it could contend," Martin said of his reasoning for no tires. "Matt had two tires there and had a little advantage on us for a little bit. Then after a little bit, we seemed to start breaking even. I know he had a little bit left, but I had enough speed to be right there without tires [and] all the guys behind me were dropping off."

* Final Laps: Kenseth passes Martin for victory at Dover

And in the end, Martin held pace.

"This was a good race for us -- great teamwork," Martin said. "We've had great teamwork all year. I'm proud of this race team. I'm proud of these guys.

"You know, we've had race cars this good this year, it's just that every time we turn around, something goes against us [so] it was nice to have things go our way."

The finish was Martin's fourth top-10 this season, in which he only has one finish worse than 20th in 11 races.

"I think this is a good race team," McGrew said. "We've managed to scrape together a few finishes with some bad luck, with tearing up some cars, and doing this and doing that. But I don't think you've seen as good as this team can be.

"These guys deserved a good finish because we've worked really hard and we've had some stuff bite us. If it wasn't for the crash [and resultant 36th-place finish] at Texas we'd be pretty solid in the top 10 right now. But we're close, and we had to have a good car to do it."