Martin starts late wreck, finds more Daytona woes

Veteran Mark Martin started on the pole, led more than a dozen

laps early and was closing in on the leaders late.

Then his ride around Daytona International Speedway ended like

so many others have for him – in the garage and out of

contention.

Martin started a 15-car pileup with a few laps remaining

Saturday night, leaving him 0 for 53 in Cup races at NASCAR’s most

famous track.

”I knew it was going to get crazy,” Martin said.

It certainly did.

Martin turned down in front of Joey Logano shortly after a

green-white-checker restart, got clipped and started spinning in

front of a pack of others. Martin could do little to avoid the

melee, collecting Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and

others. Logano acknowledged afterward that he was merely being

aggressive in the final laps.

”Mark was trying to come down in front of me,” said Logano,

who wound up third. ”I could have backed off and let him in, but

it was the end of the race so I was wide open, I didn’t care. …

We were going to team up, but I went in there guns blazing and see

what the heck happened on the other side.”

Martin finished 33rd, leaving him winless in 26 starts in

Daytona’s July race. He also is 0 for 27 in the Daytona 500.

BAYNE’S BAD LUCK: Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne was hoping

for a repeat trip to Victory Lane at Daytona. Instead, he got an

early exit.

Bayne wrecked on the fifth lap of Saturday’s race and finished

40th, ending his return to Sprint Cup competition way sooner than

he hoped.

”It’s not fun, I can promise you,” Bayne said. ”It takes

about a half second and you say, ‘Oh, here it goes,’ because you

get sideways and you know the point of correction. … I just hate

that it was us. It’s gonna happen again tonight, I’m sure, but it’s

just really unfortunate for us. I wanted to back up what we did

here in February, obviously, but we aren’t gonna get the chance to

do that.”

Bayne was running in tandem with Brad Keselowski, but Keselowski

turned Bayne around when he seemingly started pushing too close to

the left rear.

”I don’t know if I turned down more getting in (turn one) or if

he kind of came up across our bumper,” Bayne said. ”Either way,

our bumpers caught wrong and it sent us spinning.”

Bayne’s season has been a whirlwind.

He became the youngest Daytona 500 winner in February, but he

failed to capitalize on his surprise victory. He soon found himself

in the Mayo Clinic being treated for what he now believes was Lyme

disease. After taking several weeks off, Bayne returned for the

Nationwide race at Chicagoland but felt run down. He was hoping to

find more normalcy at Daytona, but ended up with a short stint

behind the wheel.

”I can’t explain what I’ve been through this year,” Bayne

said. ”It’s tough at times and it’s good at times, but I just know

that I’ve got really good people behind me. … So that gives me

confidence. If I didn’t have that and I didn’t have my faith and

everything else, right now that would be a pretty bad blow, I can

promise you that.”

NO BONUS: David Reutimann and Martin Truex Jr. had extra

incentive to win Saturday’s race at Daytona – and stick together in

the process.

Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman told his teams

before the race that he would pay them $1 million for a 1-2 finish

in the 400-mile race. He would give the winning team $250,000 and

the second-place team $750,000. Yes, the runner-up would have

received more – because teamwork and the pushing car in Daytona’s

tandem drafts have become so important since the famed track was

repaved.

”Everyone gets it,” Kauffman said. ”It’s a team thing. If

you’re P2 and you’re coming around the last turn, a lot of things

are on your mind. So will this change anything? I don’t know. But

if it all worked out that Michael Waltrip Racing was 1-2, I’d be

pretty happy with an extra million going to the guys.”

It didn’t, though.

Reutimann and Truex both were involved a 15-car pileup during a

green-white-checker finish. Reutimann finished 25th, 10 sports

higher than Truex.

PENSKE PROGRESS: Roger Penske credited the recent upswing of his

two-car NASCAR organization to operating under a one-team

philosophy. But, he doesn’t exactly discredit the notion that Kurt

Busch’s tirade in May had an effect.

”Sometimes you need a vibration, a little noise in the house,”

Penske said before Saturday night’s race at Daytona. ”I don’t

think there’s one silver bullet that you can point to as the fix,

but conversation is always good and Kurt endorsed the plans that

came from those conversations.”

Busch was terribly unhappy with the performance of the No. 22

team through March and April, and it boiled over at a race in

Richmond in an expletive-laden rant on his in-car radio. Behind the

scenes changes were made after that race, and both Busch and Brad

Keselowski have turned it up since.

Busch won three straight poles and last week’s road course race

in Sonoma, and he’s fourth in the Sprint Cup standings after

finishing 14th at Daytona. Keselowski won the pole at Charlotte,

the race at Kansas and was 10th at Sonoma to move up to 22nd in the

standings. He finished 15th Saturday, leaving him with nine races

to move himself into contention for the Chase for the Sprint Cup

championship.

”I think Brad has been able to show some speed, and Kurt

appreciates that,” Penske said. ”Both drivers are highly

motivated, which is a good thing, and people don’t realize that

Kurt wants to be the fastest car on every lap of every race, just

like his brother. That’s not a bad thing.”

The trick, Penske said, is for the organization not to get

complacent just because it’s running better.

”We can’t get too far ahead of ourselves,” Penske said.

”There’s a lot of time left. Brad has the win, and that’s

certainly very important and that’s certainly put him in position

to make the Chase. But we’ve got to look at this one week at a

time.”

STAR POWER: Country music star Martina McBride performed an

hourlong concert before the race, singing some of her most popular

tunes, including ”Broken Wing” and ”Independence Day.” In a

not-so-stunning admission, McBride said widely beloved Dale

Earnhardt Jr. is her favorite driver. She joked that her hair had

little chance to hold up in Florida’s stifling summer heat and

humidity.

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher served as the grand marshal,

delivering the command to start engines. He said he grew up a

NASCAR fan and had ”butterflies, that giddy feeling” in his

stomach beforehand.

”It’s a great honor for me,” Fisher said.

With 18 starters returning this fall, Fisher also acknowledged

high expectations for the Seminoles in 2011. They are a popular

pick to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and maybe compete for the

national title.

”They’re predicting us to win it, so I asked them the other day

if they could send me the trophy,” Fisher said. ”But they

wouldn’t send it down there. I guess we have to go win it, I hope.

We feel good about our team coming in.”

Radio personality Todd Clem, better known as ”Bubba the Love

Sponge,” drove the pace car.