With a seemingly unprecedented string of success in 2009 night races, Mark Martin will surely be among the favorites when the Pep Boys Auto 500 is run under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend.
On the cusp of solidifying his position in the 2009 Chase for the Sprint Cup, Martin enters Atlanta with three wins and a second-place finish in 2009 night races. Coupled with Martin's pole win during Georgia Power Qualifying Night at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March - also run under the lights - NASCAR's wily veteran could be on the verge of locking into the Chase at Atlanta.
Martin said he would be "devastated" if his team missed the Chase one week ago, but a second-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway has allowed Martin to jump into 10th in the Chase standings. Far from safe, Martin needs a strong finish in Atlanta and his success in night races give him momentum entering the Pep Boys Auto 500.
"I'm sure that we'll run really good at Atlanta," said Martin. "You know, if it comes down to just flat out racing, and not a bunch of, you know, cautions and crashes and flat tires ... all that stuff that's happened to us this year, if we can just go out and race for it, it's going to be great."
Martin has two career wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway - the 1991 Hardee's 500 and the 1994 Hooters 500 - and four top-five finishes at the track since 2004.
But the 2009 Pep Boys Auto 500 marks the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series night race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. With an average finish of 9.3 in 2009 night races and five top-five finishes, Martin should be confident entering Atlanta. However, the driver with 45 starts at Atlanta shrugs off his night racing success.
"With night races, I really believe its coincidence. It might not, but if it's something else, I'm just too stupid to know," said Martin humbly with an accent of humorous self-deprivation. "I don't approach night races any differently. I just approach it with my best effort, thinking about what the race is going to be like."
But Martin did note one expectation for Atlanta's first night race: "It will be fun for the fans to watch," quipped Martin.
With a strong car throughout 2009 and posting outstanding finishes in night races, Martin knows he can succeed at Atlanta, a race that should be critical to his making the Chase.
"I drive a fast race car," said Martin. "If we do the right stuff to it, we can win again."