Kent Meyers of Oregon greets Casey Mears as the two prepare to take a spin around the track at Michigan International Speedway. He earned the ride by winning a silent auction for charity.
BROOKLYN, Mich. - Mark Martin was leading yesterday's GFS Marketplace 400 on lap 129.
That's when Elliott Sadler's car blew a left front tire, shattering his fender.
The caution flag came out at Michigan International Speedway, sending the leaders of the Nextel Cup Series race to the pits.
Martin took on fuel and tires, but left without all the lug nuts on one of his rear wheels. He was penalized and had to come back to the pits. By the time he made it back on to the track, he had dropped from first place to 28th.
Martin, who ended up second, didn't want any part in the controversy.
"Don't get me in it," he said. "I don't know what happened. I didn't ask. I didn't have time to worry about it. It wasn't my deal to sort it out for them. What I had to do was my job, which was to come from the back of the back and try to win the race."
Martin's crew chief, Pat Tryson, argued vehemently with a NASCAR official at trackside, trying to overturn the ruling.
"My opinion is the [lug nut] was there when the car left and that's all it had to be," Tryson said. "They blew the call and it's just a shame. There's nothing we can do about it. We finished second and that's the way it goes."
On the last pit stop, eventual winner Greg Biffle took on four tires; Martin two. That ended up being the difference.
"We needed to be on the same tire sequence as Greg - otherwise we had no chance of catching him," Martin said. "We were praying for a miracle. The car didn't run as good on two tires as it would have on four, so it wasn't good enough. But we rolled the dice and took a chance."
NEWMAN STRUGGLES: Ryan Newman, who had won the last two Cup races at MIS, finished 14th yesterday and dropped to 13th in the championship standings with 2,748 points, 506 behind leader Jeff Gordon.
"It was a tough day," Newman said. "Obviously, it wasn't the finish we wanted. but we'll go to Bristol [this week] and do our best."
Newman was a lap down at one point in the race.
"It was a great team effort to come back and have the performance we did," he said. "I just wish it could have been better. We knew we were capable of more today. We fought through overheating twice. We cut a valve cap on pit road and it cut the tire down to the cord, so we changed tires before the green flag ever dropped and went to the back.
"Just to come back from things like that, it was a good day for us."
SOLID DEBUT: Jeff Burton's nine-year run with Roush Racing is over.
He made his debut with Richard Childress Racing yesterday, and finished 12th after starting in the 28th position.
"We're going to do better than that I hope, but that's a good start for us," Burton said. "We fought tight all day after being nervous about being tight from our practice. We made some good changes during the stops. We'll keep working to make our cars better. We'll get to where we can race better."
Burton, who has 17 career wins but none since 2001, is the third driver this season to sit in the No. 30 Chevrolet, taking over for Dave Blaney, who replaced rookie Johnny Sauter in June.
WALLACE WOES: Rusty Wallace, winner of 55 Cup races, was running in third place when his engine gave out on lap 110.
"We don't know what went wrong," said Wallace, who ended up 36th. "We broke a valve or piston or something. The car was running great and handling great. We were third, and at times, we had the fastest car in the field.
"Our bad luck just keeps continuing. We just can't get the durability. We've run out of gas, we've lost transmissions, we've blown engines. We're trying like heck. We've got the speed. We just can't get the thing to the end."
TOP ROOKIE: Kasey Kahne ended up fifth even though his car spun out on lap three.
"I just got some air taken off the spoiler and I lost it," he said. "I was just happy nobody hit me when I spun. It worked out pretty good. We got back up to the top five and we led three laps."
Kahne is just the seventh rookie since 1975 to score a top-five finish in the August race at MIS.
"Michigan has been good to us," he said.
VICTORY LAP: Kent and Holly Meyers and Bill and Ann Waters of Oregon had their moment in the spotlight yesterday.
A half-hour before the start of the race, they were introduced to the estimated crowd of 160,000 and took separate trips around the two-mile oval in Silverado trucks as part of the driver introduction lap.
Kent rode with Casey Mears; Holly with Kirk Shelmerdine; Bill with Kurt Busch; and Ann with Morgan Shepherd.
"We're thrilled - this is a once in a lifetime thing," Bill Waters said.
The foursome got to participate in the pre-race festivities after winning a silent auction Friday held in conjunction with the Boy Scouts.
The money raised from the auction benefits the Victory Junction Gang Camp.
The camp, opened in June in North Carolina by Kyle and Pattie Petty, provides an opportunity for children with chronic or life-threatening experiences to enjoy various activities.
EARNHARDT: After finally seeming to turn his recent slump around with a fifth-place finish a week earlier at Watkins Glen, yesterday was another frustrating race for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Earnhardt, who has only two top-10 finishes in his last 10 races at Michigan, wound up 21st - right where he finished here in June.
"That was actually a better finish than I thought we'd get," he said.
"It ain't that bad. We were just tight all day. I couldn't get the car to turn in the middle of the corners and it just killed us.
"We struggle at tracks like this for some reason, but we'll figure it out."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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