[media-credit name=”Brad Keppel” align=”alignright” width=”258″][/media-credit]Mark Martin was four laps away from finally going to Victory Lane at Pocono before the kid he discovered at 11-years-old got in the way.
Joey Logano put the bumper to Martin in turn one to take the lead and the win on Sunday afternoon in the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR. Bittersweet for Martin who was looking for his first win with Michael Waltrip Racing in the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine, but happy for Logano who captured his second career NSCS win.
“I’m just so thankful to have the opportunity that Michal Waltrip first of all, and Aarons and Toyota have given me to drive competitive racecars,” said Martin. “It is so incredible to be in something that is strong enough that I can contend. We went after that thing really hard, we had a great racecar. I really stuck my neck out on the line to get that lead. I almost pulled it off the restart before and I was willing to risk it all to try to get the lead.
“And once I got out there, Joey was stronger than we were. Just a little bit stronger and I was pushing as hard as I could push and had a little slip there off of three and he was able to get up on me and get by. We sure certainly would have got back up there and raced for the win after the pass if we would have the car but he was able to pull away.”
Martin credited crew chief, Rodney Childers and the entire crew for the car. They started sixth, finished second and led four laps. While others fell by the wayside or shot themselves in the foot, Martin stayed focus on the track and on pit road knowing he had car capable of winning.
A car which had great speed and the durability to make all 400 miles. But it was Logano who started first and finished first, something Martin said he knew long ago he would one day do.
“He raced for it, he was fast from day one of testing,” Martin said of Logano. “He certainly didn’t get that one handed to him, especially my pulling off that last restart. Maybe things will start to turn. He’s been kind of in a stall in his career or in his progression with the Cup Series, but it looks like the last couple of weeks that maybe that’s starting to turn.
“I’ve always known since I saw him drive at 11-years-old that could be a Cup champion. I knew it then.”
Sunday he was just a winner and at Martin’s expense in what he called a bump and run. Something Martin admitted that had he had a fast enough car and got back to Logano, he would have returned. After all, it’s something that’s been accepted in the NASCAR garage for a long time.
“It’s not how I would have done it,” said Martin. “It was great racing, and everybody does what they decide to do. It was a great race, and I’m very, very proud of my race team for putting me in something that would give me a shot. I’m having fun with it. Maybe next week we’ll be the ones with the trophy.”
Martin though goes 0-51 at Pocono, still never having won at the triangle shaped track. However, with his finish on Sunday he’s finished second there seven times. That to the likes of Rusty Wallace, Alan Kulwicki, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson and now Joey Logano.
And in that time he’s led 446 laps, making Pocono to Martin what Daytona was to Dale Earnhardt. Yet, it doesn’t weigh on him. Martin’s been around the sport long enough to know what it can do to drivers. How hard it is to win a championship, let alone a single race. Having come this far and with what success he has had at Pocono, it’s something he can live with.
“You’re not owed this stuff, man,” he said. “I’ve earned all those second place finishes and I’m proud of that. You’re not entitled. You’ve got to go get ‘em.”