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Woody: Mark Martin A Miracle In The Making? Maybe

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2009
In addition to going round and round this season, Mark Martin has been going up and down. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)  

In addition to going round and round this season, Mark Martin has been going up and down. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

By Larry Woody | Senior Writer

He’s up. He’s down. He’s up. He’s down.

Mark Martin’s Comeback Season reads like the diary of an elevator operator in the Empire State Building.

One minute he’s enjoying a bright and shining view from the penthouse, the next minute he plunges down into the dark parking garage where the rats squeak and the roaches scurry.

If the rest of the season keeps going like the first nine races, Mark may need a shrink instead of a crew chief.

After the first three races Martin was buried 34th in the standings and some sports writers (OK, me) opined that perhaps coming out of semi-retirement had been a mistake. They (OK, I) said only a miracle could get Martin into the title hunt.

One miracle, coming up.

Martin began to battle back, climbing steadily in the standings over the next five races. Two weeks ago at Phoenix he won the race and the stirring victory vaulted him all the way to 13th in the standings – just one spot out of the Chase category.

But then last Sunday at Talladega Martin was caught up in an early crash and the first drive officially sent to the showers. He finished 43rd.

First one week, last the next. No wonder this sport can make grown men cry.

And so now, going into tomorrow night’s race at Richmond, Martin is back in a hole. He’s 18th in the standings after taking a five-spot hit at Talladega.

Remember, the season’s not as long as it used to be. Drivers have only 26 races in which to make the NASCAR playoffs, and tomorrow night’s race is No. 10 on the schedule.

On Sept. 12 the caravan returns to Richmond for Race No. 26 to set the Chase field. If Martin doesn’t make it, we may look back at the Talladega trip-up as the race that doomed him.

But right now it’s too far to forecast and if there’s one thing we (OK I) have learned about Mark it is, never write him off. Not as long as his car is still alive and there’s laps left to run.

He’s already staged one amazing early-season rally and despite last Sunday’s setback there’s plenty of time to stage another. Richmond would be a good place to start.

I still think “miracle” is an appropriate terms for what Martin needs to win the championship. How else to describe the title odds against a 50-year-old driver who has raced for three decades, come close but never won one, and dusted himself off after a couple of years of semi-retirement to climb back into the ring?

Yes, I believe “miracle” fits Mark’s mission.

But jeepers, wouldn’t it be great if he could pull it off? It would be the greatest feel-good story this sport has ever seen.

But to win it, he’s gotta get in it, and that means cracking the Top 12 by the time they pull out of Richmond this fall.

Can he do it? Never count Mark Martin out. I’ve already made that mistake once this season.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, May 2 2009
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