StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11720850337583.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of www.nascar.com‘, ‘Kevin Harvick (top car) edges veteran driver Mark Martin at the finish line to claim victory in the Daytona 500 Sunday, Feb. 18. Martin, 48, is now 0-23 in his quest for a Daytona 500 championship.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117208526526567.jpg’, ‘Photo courtesy of http://media.hamptonroads.com‘, ‘Kevin Harvick celebrates his first Daytona 500 win.‘);
0.0200 of a second.
Thats how close veteran NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Mark Martin came Sunday, Feb. 18, to winning his first Daytona 500 in 23 tries.
In his first start in a Chevrolet, Martin started 26th in a field of 43 and had driven his No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet to the front with 20 laps remaining. Then, a wreck caused NASCAR officials to drop the red flag, setting up a three-lap shoot-out to the finish.
At first, Martin appeared capable of holding off Kyle Busch in the No. 5 Kelloggs/Carquest Chevrolet. But Busch started a multi-car accident in the final turn, leaving Martin without any help to push him to victory.
Kevin Harvick in his No. 29 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet and Matt Kenseth in his No. 17 DeWalt Ford joined forces on the outside, pushing Harvick alongside Martin, and, eventually, allowing Harvick to claim victory over Martin by less than half a cars length at the finish line.
In a post-race interview online at www.paddocktalk.com, Martin said: I thought that Kyles car was really fast, and I thought he was trapped on the inside line, and he was going to be pushing me coming off of four. But, you know, I wasnt doing a whole lot of thinking about anything but trying to beat the No. 29 to the line.
Ill say again: I didnt ask for that trophy; I asked for a chance at it, Martin added. And Im very proud of what this team did for me this weekend.
Martin, 48, walked away from Rousch Racing at the end of the 2006 season after 19 seasons with the team. He will run a partial schedule in 2007 with upstart Ginn Racing.
Defending race champion and 2006 NASCAR Nextel Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson, who has Rockford native Chad Knaus as crew chief, finished 39th after being knocked out of the race in a multi-car wreck on lap 174.
Rounding out the top five at Daytona were Jeff Burton in third, Mike Wallace in fourth and rookie David Ragan in fifth.
Harvick also won the Saturday, Feb. 17, Orbitz 300the Busch Series race at Daytona. Dave Blaney, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer and Martin rounded out the top five in that race.
Jack Sprague won the Friday, Feb. 16, NASCAR Craftsman Truck series race at Daytona, with Johnny Benson, Janesville, Wis., native Travis Kvapil, Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine rounding out the top five.
NASCAR Nextel Cup heads to California Speedway Sunday, Feb. 25, for the Auto Club 500, where Kenseth is defending race winner. Race airs at 2 p.m. on FOX.
From the Feb. 21-27, 2007, issue