Not to pit call for Martin with 42 to go was a bad call
Back in June, Mark Martin was able to stretch his gas mileage to win at Michigan. This past Sunday, his team decided not to pit, and his Chevy ran the tank dry.
With a Chase spot on the line, perhaps they should have brought Martin down pit road, during the final caution flag period, which waved with 42 laps remaining. Instead Martin was told to stay on track, and on the final lap, his car burped going down the back stretch, with Martin falling all the way back to a 31st place finish.
For his team-mate Jimmy Johnson who came home in 33rd after pitting with two laps to go, staying out was not a big gamble. Johnson has all but locked up a spot in The Chase. If he could have squeezed out two more laps, the ten bonus points would have been a big help when the playoffs begin for NASCAR.
Martin, who leads the Sprint Cup Series in wins this year, now sets in 12th spot in the points, just a mere 12 points ahead of Sunday’s race winner Brian Vickers. Martin’s crew told him to swing for the fence, he sent it to deep center field, but the centerfielder made a Willie Mays basket catch.
If the crew had called Martin in during that final caution, most likely he would have came home somewhere inside the top fifteen. That finish would have given Martin a 50-60 point cushion over Vickers, and perhaps Martin would be in 10th place instead of 12th. A top ten finish would have been a solid base hit, and four base hits in a row equals a homerun.
With two short track races coming up before the field is set for The Chase, Martin will be feeling the pressure that he has been under before during his career. Four times he has finished as runner up in the points, all of these were in the old season long system. If Martin ends up 13th for the season, this will seem like a runner up finish once again.
Drivers always say you look at the entire year, not just one event if you miss a championship, or now miss making The Chase. It will be hard for Martin and his Hendrick Team to look anywhere other than this past weekend’s Michigan race to see what kept them for having a shot at the championship.
Martin has been very strong on Saturday nights this year. He has wins at Phoenix, Darlington, and Chicago under the lights this year. Martin is a short track ace. If he can finish in the top five at Bristol and Richmond it will go a long way to secure his spot in The Chase.
Anything can happen in a NASCAR race, but Martin needs to have three mistake free races to have a shot at the 2009 championship. He has surprised folks all year, and a lot of folks expect to see him falter, but I think he will make The Chase.
I also think Vickers will make The Chase as well, so what drivers will be on the outside looking in you ask? It could very well be either Matt Kenseth or Greg Biffle, who drive for Martin’s former boss, Jack Roush.