Fall Night

Mark Martin may have made the understatement of the year Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

“Hey, I had a better chance before I wrecked,” Martin said of his championship hopes.

He's not alone.

Martin, Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon all had better chances of winning the NEXTEL Cup title Saturday night before they wrecked - or in Gordon's case blew up.

It was another night of the championship chase getting jumbled up in the wake of drivers having trouble.

Martin's accident with J.J. Yeley was the most spectacular of the night. As Yeley tried to duck into the pits on lap 240, Martin clipped the slowing car and spun around before making hard contact with the turn four wall.

The impact lifted Martin's car off all four wheels, before he finally came to rest.

“I don’t know if he didn’t see me or whatever, but I can only wave off so much," Martin said. 'just think he should have run on the outside of me.”

Martin was credited with a 30th place finish and after trailing point leader Jeff Burton by only 10 points coming into Charlotte, now finds himself fourth 102 out of the lead.

“The championship is not really something that was meant for me ever, probably isn’t this year and it’s not going to get me down,” Martin said.

Denny Hamlin's problems started much earlier than Martins, on lap two to be exact.

Hamlin was caught in a major melee on the frontstretch that involved 11 cars, and set the tone for another wild evening at Lowe's.

"It was a chain reaction,” said Hamlin. “I was trying to be cautious, but cautious isn’t always the best way to get through a wreck.”

Hamlin came back to finish 28th, but sunk to sixth in the standings 137 out.

Gordon was saddled with his third straight DNF when the engine in his DuPont Chevrolet let got on lap 301.

After a fuel pump problem in Kansas, a crash at Talladega and engine woes in Charlotte, Gordon has sunk to last in the "Chase."

"It's unfortunate because we pride ourselves on our engine department," Gordon said. "It's just not meant to be for us this year. Glad to make the chase, but from here on out we just try to win races."







Related Topics:

NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2006

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