Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NextelCup [Print without images]

Sunday, April 15, 2007
Martin back strong after two-race hiatus

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

FORT WORTH, Texas -- For the moment, Mark Martin is back in the Chase.

Martin took up where he left off when he got out of the No. 01 Chevy a few weeks ago, finishing third in the Samsung 500.

He moved up from 15th to 11th in the standings, despite missing two races in his semi-retired season.

Martin announced this past offseason that he would run a partial slate of 22 races for Ginn Racing in 2007. He will drive the No. 01 car at Phoenix next week, but he is scheduled to miss the race at Talladega in two weeks.

The man who was the runner-up to the title four times in his career continues to say he won't change his mind about skipping races.

"I have no interest in it," Martin said of competing for the championship. "I chased that Cup hard. I gave it my guts. Now I'm enjoying just getting to race. It's fun."

Former teammate Matt Kenseth was sitting next to Martin in the media center: "He doesn't need to run the whole season," Kenseth said. "He's still going to make the Chase."

Crowded house
The announced attendance Sunday of 191,000 was 2,000 more than this race one year ago, even though TMS was selling 10,000 fewer seats.

There were 11 sections on each end of the backstretch grandstands blocked off and advertising signage was covering the upper half of the sections.

Whatever the crowd count was, it got significantly smaller when Dale Earnhardt Jr. wrecked with 44 laps to go.

Earnhardt led 96 laps and had just fallen to second place behind Kenseth when he was involved in an accident.

Moments later, thousands of fans headed for exits and the traffic jam to leave TMS began.

What's not to like
Jeff Burton, who earned $526,766 for his dramatic victory Sunday, said he's tired of people complaining about boring races.

"I've never seen a boring race," Burton said. "What the hell is boring about 43 cars going around the track at 200 miles per hour? Some races are better than others, but every basketball game isn't close, either.

"It kills me when people say racing used to be better. I say they've haven't watched racing. It you look back 20 years ago, there's no comparison."

Evernham struggles again
Kasey Kahne won at Texas one year ago, but his unimpressive 2007 season continued Sunday.

Kahne finished 20th, two laps down in the No. 9 Dodge. Kahne now has finished 20th or worse in four of the last five races.

Things also didn't go so well for Kahne's teammates at Evernham Motorsports. Elliott Sadler finished 17th and Scott Riggs was 27th.

Early exits
Drivers didn't complete the first lap of the Samsung 500 Sunday before the first multi-car accident of the day.

J.J. Yeley on the outside and David Ragan in the middle of a three-wide situation banged door panels coming out of Turn 4, starting the crash.

Ragan and Ricky Rudd slid through the grass in front of pit road before Rudd's car backed over the top of Ragan's car. Ragan's No. 6 Ford caught fire briefly, but he wasn't injured.

Yeley blamed Ragan for starting the accident.

"To get taken out of the first lap is absolutely ridiculous," Yeley said. "It was just stupidity on his part."

Blind justice?
NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman isn't too happy with NASCAR's justice system.

Aikman, the co-owner of Hall of Fame Racing with former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, was asked Sunday what he sees as the biggest difference between NASCAR and the NFL.

"In the NFL, how things are handled and how punishment is given out is pretty consistent from one case to the next," Aikman said. "I don't think that's the case in NASCAR."

Sad note
Scott Kircher, a team member for Ginn Racing, died Saturday from injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident Friday at Mooresville, N.C.

Kircher, who was 45, was one of the transport drivers for the No. 14 Chevy. He is survived by his wife, Lani, and daughters Katie (21) and Lacey (14). The funeral will be Thursday in Kircher's hometown of Peoria, Ill.

A trust fund has been established in the name of Scott's daughters. Donations can be made at any Bank of America. Donations also can go to the Transporter Drivers of Motorsports Association, P.O. Box 5478, Mooresville, N.C., 28117.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.