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Dead End Ahead?
Mark Martin cuts Jeff Gordon's point lead, but the superspeedways loom
by Ed Hinton
Posted: Wed October 7, 1998
With two victories in the last three races, including Sunday's crash-filled UAW-GM Quality 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Mark Martin has seized momentum from points leader Jeff Gordon in their duel for the Winston Cup championship. But Martin fears his late surge will come to a screeching halt in the next two races, the Winston 500 at Talladega this Sunday and the Pepsi 400 at Daytona on Oct. 17. Talladega and Daytona are the two longest tracks on the circuit and the only ones at which NASCAR requires carburetor restrictor plates to hold speeds below 200 mph.
But the Roush-Martin team shouldn't give up yet. The engine-stifling restrictor plates often force drivers to run in huge packs because they have difficulty accelerating away from one another. That causes crapshoots that can leave the hares wrecked and the tortoises with the spoils.
Martin finished 38th in the Daytona 500 last February and 23rd in the DieHard 500 at Talladega last April. Though Gordon finished 16th and fifth, respectively, in those races, he dominated at Daytona before hitting some debris and damaging his front air dam just past the halfway point.
Says Martin, "We did test at Daytona before the July race [the Pepsi 400, which was postponed until October because of raging summer wildfires in Florida], and we made significant progress with our car. But since then we're not sure we've made any progress. We should be in better shape than we were, but we're certainly not where we want to be."
Issue date: October 12, 1998
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