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IROC: Martin, then Earnhardt

Published Sep. 29, 2005

Mark Martin won Friday's final 1999 IROC race, beating Jeff Gordon by .395 of a second and denying Dale Earnhardt the chance to sweep the four-event series.

But The Intimidator had the last laugh.

Earnhardt had to finish eighth or better in the 12-driver field to capture his third series championship, and did just that by barely holding off ninth-place Dave Marcis.

"I did all I could," said Martin, who has won the series each of the past three years and four of the last five.

Earnhardt agreed.

"I tell you, Mark did everything he had to do," said Earnhardt, also the series winner in 1990 and '95. "And if I had slipped one spot further, I would have been history."

But Earnhardt stayed ahead of Marcis, a veteran driver winless in Winston Cup since 1982 and making his first IROC start since June 17, 1978. He was a late replacement for Adrian Fernandez, who sustained a hairline fracture to his right wrist while practicing Friday morning for Sunday's CART race at Detroit.

The only driver failing to finish was CART's Greg Moore, who crashed early. He was not injured.

MARTIN TO DRIVE, IN PAIN: A workout fanatic when healthy, Martin now works with a therapist four days a week.

"We're doing it in baby steps, for me," said Martin, who broke his left wrist and badly damaged his still-tender left knee during a July 2 practice wreck at Daytona. "The doctor told the therapist that I could do half the weight I normally do. I laughed and said, "You don't know what I used to do.' We were doing some leg extensions, and I usually do 135 pounds for 10 reps. I said, "Half of that is going to be too much.' We were down to working with 30 pounds."

Despite getting hit by Rusty Wallace in a pit-road practice accident Thursday, Martin, 40, starts outside of pole-sitter Gordon for today's Brickyard 400.

"All it was was two guys who had their mind on one thing, and one thing only. It happened," Martin said. "I couldn't see him, and he couldn't see me. There's a blind spot there.

"Thankfully, everything is okay."

GO FIGURE: Starting third today is David Green, who shocked even himself with a season-best qualifying run.

"I didn't think, as much as I missed the line here, there and yonder, that it would have stood up in the top five," Green said. "I was excited. I slept good (Thursday) night."

ON THE TRACK: Rich Bickle was the fastest driver to fail to make today's field, missing after running 24-thousandths of a second slower than Hut Stricklin in second-round qualifying.

Among those standing on first-day speed and making the field: Darrell Waltrip, who starts 35th.

Seven drivers relied on provisionals to get in: Bobby Hamilton, Chad Little, Johnny Benson, 1997 and '98 pole winner Ernie Irvan, Kenny Wallace, Jimmy Spencer and Kevin Lepage.

Jeremy Mayfield was fastest in Happy Hour at 172.957 mph. The session was not kind to Marcis, who brushed the wall, or Rick Mast, whose engine failed before he completed a lap.

DODSON BACK: Barry Dodson, who was Rusty Wallace's crew chief during their 1989 Winston Cup-winning season, is back as new crew chief for Derrike Cope's No. 30 Pontiac, which Chuck Rider sold last week to Boston businessman Jack Birmingham. Dodson, Cope's crew chief at Whitcomb Racing before it shut down in 1992, has not been a Cup crew chief since '95.

MORE CHANGES: No. 75 Ford owner Butch Mock has merged his operation with Galaxy Enterprises, owned by Busch Grand National Series owner Darwin Oordt. The merger clouds Ted Musgrave's status as driver of the 75, which recently learned it will lose primary-sponsor Remington.

"We don't want to paint the picture that Ted's job is in trouble. It's not," Mock said. "What I want to portray is that perhaps Ted's confidence level with us may not be that great. Ted may not want to stay with us."

NEW EVENT?: NASCAR and IRL both intend to negotiate for race dates beginning in 2001 at a new oval track in Joliet, Ill., near Chicago. NASCAR wants a new Winston Cup race at the facility.




1. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet. 179.612 mph:

Defending champ on the pole for third time in five years.

2. Mark Martin, No. 6 Valvoline Ford. 178.941 mph:

Injured already, Thursday's practice wreck won't help.

3. David Green, No. 41 Kodiak Chevrolet. 178.902 mph:

39th in points, needs good finish after great qualifying run

4. Dale Jarrett, No. 88 Quality Care Ford. 178.859 mph:

Points leader on track for first Winston Cup championship.

5. Michael Waltrip, No. 7 Philips Chevrolet. 178.816 mph:

Hoping for season's second top-five finish, first win ever.

_ Tim Buckley

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