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Martin's strong run may not be enough

For Mark Martin, it's not too little but it may be too late in the race for the Winston Cup championship.

Despite 11 top-10 finishes in his past 14 starts, Martin has lost 73 points to leader Jeff Gordon.

"That just shows you how hard this is," said Martin, who heads into Sunday's Dura-Lube 500 at Phoenix International Raceway trailing Gordon by 125 points. He is 20 points in front of hard-charging Dale Jarrett.

"Losing 15 points to Gordon and 25 points to Dale at Rockingham sure didn't help us any," said Martin, who finished sixth Sunday at North Carolina Motor Speedway.

Gordon needs only to finish 13th or better at Phoenix and in the finale Nov. 16 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to wrap up the $1.5-million championship, his second in three years. But the 26-year-old is taking nothing for granted.

"We dodged a couple of bullets at Rockingham," said Gordon, who finished fourth, two positions behind Jarrett. First, he slid on a wet track and scraped the wall on the second lap. Later, Gordon had to make an extra pit stop to repair the cap on his left rear hub, the piece that holds in the rear axle.

Jarrett, a career-best third in the standings last year after finishing eighth at Phoenix and second at Atlanta, figures he needs to do better than that to have any chance at the title.

"There's not much question that I have to win the last two races to have any real chance, and even then it would take those other guys have some pretty big problems," Jarrett said. "It could happen, but I don't really expect it to."

Practice and qualifying get under way today on the 1-mile oval.

GOODWRENCH-DELCO 300: Mike Bliss, who waited nearly a year to claim his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck series victory, continued his late season charge as he won the pole at Phoenix International Raceway. Bliss drove to a record-breaking lap of 127.741 mph for his third consecutive pole in series races. Bryan Reffner joins Bliss on the front row of the 36-truck field Saturday, qualifying at 127.402 . . . Tony Bettenhausen and Indy-car rookie of the year Patrick Carpentier have parted company. The owners of Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., will expand by 10,000 seats and add a NASCAR truck race.

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