Martin Wins Truck Opener
February 17, 2006 | 9:13 P.M. EST
That ended on Friday night.
Martin made a triumphant return to the trucks as he won the GM FlexFuel 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
The veteran driver, who had planned on becoming a full-time driver on the circuit this year before deciding to return to the NEXTEL Cup Series for a final season, finished ahead of Todd Bodine, who was trying for a series record fourth straight win.
Martin was ahead when the yellow flew for Ron Hornaday's spin and subsequent pile-up during a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
"The truck was really fast, it didn't handle as good as I like for it to," Martin said. "I only practiced just a little bit, when I got shuffled back, I had to hurry up."
Martin started his Roush Racing Ford 150 from the pole and wound up leading 42 laps on his way to the win. After falling back in the pack around the midway point, he took over the lead for good on lap 87.
Martin's last victory in the truck series came at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996.
In 53 starts at Daytona including the NEXTEL Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck Series, Martin's win Friday night was his first in a points race.
Ted Musgrave, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague rounded out the Top 5.
Rookie Erik Darnell, Bobby Hamilton, Jr., Rick Crawford, David Reutimann and Terry Cook completed the first ten finishers.
Musgrave, racing in his first event as a teammate with Bodine at Germain Motors, was disappointed about not having a shot to run down Martin for the win.
Musgrave said if the race would have finished under green, he would have teamed up with Bodine to run Martin down.
"Mark got his Christmas present because we had a plan," Musgrave said. "It's a last-lap deal where you just use the brakes real quick, let him shoot out, and then we come charging like a freight train."
Freshman driver Darnell, who won Roush Racing's "Driver X" program to land the ride in the team's No. 99 truck, turned in an impressive performance in his first career start at Daytona.
"This is just incredible tonight for the whole Roush Racing team," the third generation driver said. "I know that the whole family back home is watching. Man we had a great truck. We came from a lap down. John Quinn and Chris Becker spotting for us, and all of the help I got from Mark out there on the track getting back to the front is just incredible."
The Craftsman Truck Series now heads to California Speedway for next Friday night's racetickets.com 200.