Martin taking frustration to backup car in Texas

Saturday, November 4th 2006, 2:41 pm
By: News On 6

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Mark Martin had nowhere to go, and now he'll have to drive a backup car Sunday at Texas.

Martin's primary car was wrecked in the final NASCAR Nextel Cup practice Saturday when he was hit by the car of Tony Raines, who had gotten loose in Turn 4 and was trying to get to the pits. He drove into Martin, who was trying to pass and couldn't escape contact.

“It's unfortunate for Mark, and the last thing we wanted to do was affect a car in the Chase,” said Philippe Lopez, competition director for Hall of Fame Racing, the team owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach.

While the extensive cosmetic damage on the left side of Raines' #96 Chevrolet can be fixed, the front right of Martin's # 6 Ford was a mangled mess.

“t would be tough to fix,” said Pat Tryson, Martin's crew chief. “It wouldn't be so bad if it was just racing, but when somebody is trying to come on pit road and they're not on the bottom and they turn into you, it's pretty sad.”

Martin had hopes of winning his first Cup title in what could be his final season of full-time racing. He is 8th in the Chase, 201 points behind Matt Kenseth, after being involved in a crash with 15 laps left at Atlanta last week to finish 36th. He'll start at the back of the field in Texas in the Dickies 500.

TOYOTA MANAGER: Former Chip Ganassi team manager Andy Graves is the Nextel Cup program manager for Toyota, which Saturday also announced its Busch entries for 2007.

Graves, who took over his new position a week ago, was the first person hired by Chip Ganassi for his NASCAR operation in 2000, and remained team manager until April. Graves, who began his career as a crew member for Jeff Gordon, now heads up Toyota's move into NASCAR's top level.

“I worked with Toyota when I was with Chip's organization and I've seen what Toyota as a manufacturer can do for you, working together and using that technology to your best,” Graves said. “I thought it was a perfect fit and a perfect opportunity for myself to be able to help these teams to take some of the technology that (Toyota Racing Development) has available and help them apply that to their cars.”

Toyota has already clinched the season manufacturer title in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series with 2 races left.

There will be 7 Toyotas running full-time Cup schedules next season, including 2 new teams: Michael Waltrip's 3 car operation and two entries for Team Red Bull. Bill Davis' 2 car team is switching from Dodge to Toyota.

Waltrip will also have one of three Busch Series teams running full-time in Camrys next year, with David Reutimann driving. The others are the 2 car team of Braun Racing with Jason Leffler and Dave Blaney, and Biagi DenBeste Racing with driver Auggie Vidovich.

TEXAS THIEF: The tale has grown over the years about how Jeff Burton got one of the souvenirs of his first Cup victory in the first race at Texas in 1997.

The way the story has been told is that Burton sneaked back into a locked-up Victory Lane hours after the race, took a screwdriver from his pocket and dug one of the Texas shaped stone pavers out of the ground.

“That's not exactly how it happened,” said Burton, who does have the paver on display in a trophy case at home. “It's typical that as time goes by, stories get bigger or incorrect.”

Burton actually had taken the paver about a month before the race during a testing session at the track. There were stacks of the pavers in the uncompleted infield.

“I took it before we ever had a race here,” he said. “I thought it was cool, so I took one.”

Burton now has a legitimate Texas shaped paver. TMS president Eddie Gossage this week gave him one framed in a display along with pictures from his Victory Lane celebration.

“That was the very first race here and we want him to take this home and put it in his trophy case,” Gossage said. “We don't want you having something illegal in there.”


LABONTE'S LAST LAP: It would be a dream ending in Texas: Terry Labonte on the final lap of his last NASCAR Nextel Cup race in a battle for the lead with brother Bobby.

So if the Texas natives were able to pull that off, would younger brother Bobby let “Texas Terry” go out a winner in his 848th and final Cup race?

“Well, I don't know,” Bobby said. “Nah, I'd probably take him out on the last lap, see if he would retaliate.”

Terry Labonte has a lot of ground to make up Sunday, when he will start at the back of the 43 car field. But being his last race, he can have an all out, nothing to lose strategy.

“Yeah, I think if I need a caution, I'm going to throw some roll bar rubber out because, I figure, what the heck, they can't suspend me,” he said, jokingly. “If they fine me, I'm not coming back anyway, so I don't have to pay that.”


SPARKPLUGS: Mike Bliss was fastest in the final Cup practice Saturday with a lap of 188.180 mph. Jeff Gordon is 0 for at the final 3 tracks on the schedule. The only three active tracks where Gordon hasn't won are Texas (11 races), Phoenix (15) and Homestead (seven). Gordon starts 23rd. IndyCar Series driver Dario Franchitti watched the final Cup practice from the top of one of Richard Childress' haulers. Fort Worth-based Williamson-Dickie extended its title sponsorship of the Texas fall race through 2009.