Martin Looks For Darlington Double

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Mark Martin comes into Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway as the defending race winner and hopes to repeat for his first win of the 2010 season.

Martin led the final 46 laps of the prestigious event to earn his second career Darlington victory a year ago to go along with his win back in 1993 when he led 178 laps.

"Last year's win, well, it came pretty quickly after our first win, so it was exciting for us," Martin said. "It was a momentum boost. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a gutsy call and really locked the win in for us."

Getting back to victory lane at the historic track was indeed satisfying for the veteran driver.

"The Southern 500 is a pretty big deal, and it had been so long since I won the first one that it was like I hadn't ever won it at all," he said. "So to get that win, and to do it with these guys on the 5 team, that was really special to me."

Gustafson recalls the challenge of last year's race and points to the team's effort as one of the highlights of last season.

"That's definitely the toughest race I've ever won; one of the toughest races I can remember ever running," Gustafson said. "We weren't very good on Friday during practice. Mark went out there and got us a good qualifying lap, salvaged a starting spot for us. But we knew we had a lot of work to do on the car. We made a lot of adjustments race morning. Probably four or five times more than we would normally make.

"It was a total team effort. I was physically and mentally exhausted after that race, as I'm sure all the guys on the team were. It was a race that took us all weekend to win. Mark never gave up on the track and kept fighting all night. It was really just an incredible night for us."

Along with his two career victories, Martin has earned 17 top-five finishes and 26 top-10s in 43 Sprint Cup starts at Darlington. He has led 801 laps and finished all but three Cup events there during his career.

The egg-shaped track has undergone some changes over the years but it remains one of the most difficult challenges on the schedule.

"Darlington was repaved many years ago and the first couple of years it was similar to how it is now," Martin said. "The difference with paving now, compared to then, is that the result will hang on and last a little longer. Eventually, though, it will get back to the way it was before with tires playing such a key role.

"Darlington is tough because I like sliding my race car around the track, and you just can't do that there. If you slip, you're going to be in the wall. So, last year, Alan was just brilliant. He set me up where I could race how I wanted to in one end and defend my position in the other. It was a perfect strategy, and that's the stuff you have to figure out for Darlington."

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