DOVER, Del. (AP) – Mark Martin knows the bad luck a top driver experiences during a long losing streak has to end somewhere, somehow.

For Martin, the reversal of fortune came last June at Dover International Speedway, where he won for the first time in nearly 2 years. He ended a 72-race drought after runaway leader Kasey Kahne skidded on a patch of oil and crashed with 18 laps remaining in the MBNA 400.

“I can assure you there have been plenty of times where it was me in the oil and someone else getting the win,” Martin said.” It’s just the way it works. If you are around long enough you’ll experience a little of both.”

But Martin, hoping to become the most prolific Dover winner among active Nextel Cup drivers with a fifth victory, didn’t prevail last year simply because he inherited the lead.

“We still had to outrun Tony Stewart, who had been the best car most of the day,” he explained.

With 34 victories in 614 career starts, Martin knows luck often can be a major factor in the outcome of a race. For that reason he doesn’t curse his fate.

“I never feel like I’m owed anything,’ he said. “NASCAR racing is a tough sport. You have your ups and you have your downs and I’ve had a lot more success than most people.”

First, Martin managed to avoid a 19-car pileup that halted Ryan Newman’s bid for a record-tying third straight victory on The Monster Mile. Then, Kahne, whose great rookie season was to end with five second-place finishes but no wins, found the oil slick dropped a lap earlier by Casey Mears.

“I had no clue the oil was there,” Kahne recalled. “To have a car that good and not be able to race for the win, that’s pretty disappointing.”

His 21st-place finish in June – as disappointing as it was – was only a precursor to Kahne’s next outing on The Monster Mile. A broken flywheel put him out after just 13 laps and he wound up 42nd in a field of 43.

He laments that loss almost as much as his first setback on the high-banked concrete oval.

“We broke early in the race, so we don’t know how competitive we could have been,” he explained. “We’d like to be around to run the entire race and see what we have at the end, that’s for sure.”

The misfortune of last year hasn’t lessened the 25-year-old driver’s enthusiasm for racing at Dover.

“The track is fast and you can drive the car hard here,” he said. “I like that. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a cool track.”

Lucky or not, Martin was positioned to win when bad fortune hit Kahne. Being at or near the top on the high-banked concrete oval is commonplace for Martin.

“I have and will always like Dover,” he said. “It suits my driving style. It’s a track that the driver really can make a difference and we have always had good runs here.”

Martin dismisses the notion that a driver is better at a given track simply because he has succeeded there in the past.

“As far as being easier, I’m not sure,” he said of Dover. “But it’s a heck of a lot more fun.”

Kahne just passed teammate Jeremy Mayfield for the lead on the backstretch with 54 laps remaining when the cars of Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney made contact entering the third turn.

With the track virtually blocked, Kahne squeezed through the mess. The rest of the contenders crashed. Martin wasn’t among them, and didn’t figure to be a factor from his trailing position.

Martin also was the beneficiary of a gaffe by Newman, who put himself in position for the big wreck by missing the entrance to pit road and sliding into the tire barrier. That brought out the caution that preceded the pileup that gave Martin a chance.

He also was strong in Dover’s September race, finishing second to Newman.

Martin was assigned the 12th starting spot for Sunday’s race when rain prevented qualifying Friday. Kahne will start 16th. Points leader Jimmie Johnson was given the pole as a result of the rainout and will start inside second-place Greg Biffle.

AP-ES-06-03-05 1553EDT


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