Racing beat

| May 01, 2006

Mark Martin takes a break during NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing at Daytona International Speedway.

Delayed Gratification
Mark Martin postponed his full-time gig in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for a year. But he hasn’t postponed his reputation as the circuit’s best pickup artist.

Martin, driving trucks part-time in 2006 while closing out his Nextel Cup career, won the first two NCTS races of the 2006 season.

Although he won’t compete in enough races to claim the championship this year, he has already set himself as the man to beat in 2007.

In the 200 February at California Speedway, Martin basically repeated his winning performance from the season-opener at Daytona.

In a two-lap overtime finish, he held off Todd Bodine following a crash by Mike Wallace on lap 99.

When the caution came out, it extended the event by two laps; the same scenario happened at Daytona. And just like the season opener, championship contenders Bodine and Ted Musgrave, the defending champ, had to settle for the place and show spots.

The Toyotas of Bodine and Musgrave were lined up behind Martin’s Ford on lap 105, but they had nothing for the Roush Racing veteran.

“Man, I’m having a blast,” Martin says. “I’m back one more year (in Cup) for the fans and Jack Roush, but it’s a privilege to drive this F-150. It’s just got great horsepower. The handling is fantastic, and all the guys in the crew are fantastic.

“I love racing with Todd and Ted and Mike Skinner and all those guys; they’re really good drivers. We had our hands full on the last restart.”

Musgrave and Bodine had hoped to run Martin down at Daytona, but their combined efforts went for naught. The futility was repeated in the dash to the California checker.

“Todd learned (at Daytona) that if we had a green-white-checker that he was going to be sitting pretty good,” Martin says. “I knew that he knew and he knew that I knew, and it was time to see what we could all do. We just had enough to keep it out there. Our truck would get better the longer we were out there.”

Martin will compete in just seven NCTS events this year, but had it not been for a shakeup in the Roush Racing stable, he’d be racing for a title.

When Kurt Busch was released from his contract to join Penske Racing, Roush found himself a man down in the Nextel Cup garage.

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