Mark Martin conserves just enough fuel to win NASCAR race in Michigan

The Associated Press ~ staff The News
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BROOKLYN, Mich. - Mark Martin saved just enough gas to hang on for victory Sunday in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson dominated most of the LifeLock 400 and took the lead from Greg Biffle six laps from the end as Martin watched the duel from third place.
Johnson, the three-time reigning Cup champion, ran out of gas two laps from the finish, giving the lead to Biffle. But he also ran out of gas as the final trip around the 2-mile oval began, clearing the way for the 50-year-old Martin to drive to the front.
His No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet also was left with an empty tank on the last lap, but he was able to coast to the finish line almost three seconds ahead of runner-up Jeff Gordon.
"My car was good, but I couldn't run their pace and save gas," Martin said. "When Jimmie ran out, I said, 'Heck, we're this close. I'm going to run hard. With three quarters of a lap (left), what can happen?"'
Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Biffle, Juan Pablo Montoya and series points leader Tony Stewart. Last year's race winner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., finished 14th.
Brian Vickers started from the pole, but Kyle Busch passed him at the start and led the first eight laps with Johnson moving into second.
Johnson swept past to take the lead on the ninth lap and looked unbeatable, leading 141 of the next 142 laps. He was never challenged, building big leads after each caution flag bunched up the field.
But Biffle and Hamlin both came out ahead of Johnson when the leaders pitted under caution on lap 154.
At that point, all the leaders were being told to conserve fuel.
Johnson got past Hamlin to take the runner-up spot on lap 179, trailing Biffle by 1.7 seconds. He steadily ate into that lead and finally was right behind the leader on lap 193.
The two were briefly side-by-side - using more gas - on lap 194 and Johnson managed to get past the next time around. Biffle immediately sped up and tried to repass Johnson - again causing both to use more gas - with Johnson remaining ahead.
Biffle said he and Johnson made a mistake in trying to race each other while trying to conserve fuel.
"The 48 (Johnson) came up there and ran like we weren't on a fuel-economy run," Biffle said. "I messed with him a little bit. It made me use too much throttle and burned up the gas.
"Unfortunately, he came up there and we cat and moused and used up too much gas."
Johnson led 145 of the 200 laps. He managed to get his car to the finish but wound up 22nd, the last car on the lead lap.
Martin, who has 38 career victories, drove only partial schedules the past few seasons. He joined Rick Hendrick's elite team this year for the full season and is making the most of it. The four-time series runner-up is eighth in the season points with three victories after the first 15 races of the year.
"This is a dream come true," Martin said. "We qualified 32nd on Friday and I went to the coach and I thought, 'Oh man, I hope I don't get fired.' I love driving this car. we went on Saturday (in practice) and just flew. So we knew we had a fast car.
"This team deserves to be in the Chase," he added. "We've been on the outside looking in with all trouble we've had. I went for the points."

Organizations: NASCAR, Michigan International Speedway

Geographic location: Michigan, BROOKLYN

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