Back In The Saddle

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After two races on his patio rather than behind-the-wheel of a NEXTEL Cup car, Mark Martin didn't miss a beat Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The veteran driver was again in the front of the field throughout the Samsung 500 and brought the Ginn Racing U.S. Army Chevrolet home to his fifth top ten finish of the season.

"I'm really proud of this team and it's fun to be back," Martin said. "I wish we could have been up there with my buddies scrapping for it but I'm satisfied with third. But I'm satisfied with third. It was just such an incredible job by Ryan Pemberton and the team."

Martin has kept to the promise of running a limited schedule for Ginn Racing this year and sat out the races at Bristol and Martinsville.

With the start he's had to the season, some questioned whether Martin might be tempted to stay in the car for another full season attempt.

But Martin knows he made the right choice.

"I knew when Bristol was over with I had made the right decision," he said. "You want to be careful about bragging how good a deal (he has). I have hit the lotto, no question. To be able to drive these cars for this team is a dream come true and to be able to step away when I want to step away, I just couldn't ever imagine having that kind of privilege."

The two races Martin skipped were "Car of Tomorrow" events, so he hasn't had a chance to drive the new NEXTEL Cup machine in race competition.

That will change this weekend, when he'll race the team's Chevy Imapala SS COT ride at Phoenix.

"I'm not dreading it because I love these guys so much but from our test we appear to be about a 15th-place car," he said. "The good thing is that when we practice, a lot of times our car of today looks to be a 15th-place car. It seems like we race better than we practice. I hope to be able to help develop the (COT) cars into better cars but I do feel that we have more work to do than some of the teams on the car. I guess we'll find out next week."

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