Atlanta race notes, Martin champion
MARTIN TRUEX JR. CAPTURES FIRST CROWN ROYAL IROC SERIES VICTORY IN THE SEASON FINALE AT ATLANTA Mark Martin Finishes Second, Clinches Record-Breaking Fifth Series Championship HAMPTON, Ga., October 29, 2005 150; One driver put an exclamation ...
MARTIN TRUEX JR. CAPTURES FIRST CROWN ROYAL IROC SERIES VICTORY IN THE SEASON FINALE AT ATLANTA
Mark Martin Finishes Second, Clinches Record-Breaking Fifth Series Championship
HAMPTON, Ga., October 29, 2005 150; One driver put an exclamation point on a long and storied career, while the other continued his rise to becoming a racing superstar.
NASCAR drivers swept the top three positions in the Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway Saturday, led by Martin Truex Jr., who won his first series title in his rookie IROC season.
NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Mark Martin clinched a record-breaking fifth series title with his second-place race finish, followed by Matt Kenseth, IRL Indy Car driver Helio Castroneves and World of Outlaws driver Danny Lasoski.
Truex Jr., who is chasing his second consecutive NASCAR Busch Series crown, led 43 of 65 laps of the 100.1- mile race, which saw a two-car crash on the final lap between Scott Pruett and Bobby Hamilton. Pruett, who suffered a sore angle in the crash, was checked and released from the infield care center.
"I am really excited about my first IROC victory," said Truex Jr., who secured second place in the final points standings with the win. "IROC is one of the things that is just really cool to be a part of. It is something you watch growing up and all the best drivers in the world are in it."
Martin, who started the race in the 12th and final position, didn't waste much time making his move to the front of the field, taking over the top spot on Lap 9 and eventually leading 10 laps. He fell short in his attempt to become just the fourth driver to record three victories in the four-race IROC season (Daytona and Richmond), but was satisfied with performance and the milestone.
"IROC has been the highlight of my driving career and I am most proud of this accomplishment," said Martin, who earned $1 million from series title sponsor, Crown Royal, for the 2005 title. "The most special thing about the IROC Series is the relationships you build along the way. I wouldn't have had a chance probably to even talk to all these guys if I hadn't been invited to race IROC. That is the coolest thing about IROC in my mind."
Kenseth, the 2004 Crown Royal IROC Series titlist, completed a strong season with his third top-four showing, clinching third in the final points standings.
Open-wheel competitors Castroneves and Lasoski registered season-best top- five finishes. For Lasoski, the open-wheel sprint car competitor, it was his fourth top-seven finish of the season.
"I wish they would build five more of these Atlanta's," quipped Lasoski." "Next to Daytona this is about much fun as you can have racing."
The bottom half of the top 10 included: two-time Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais, followed by Buddy Rice (IRL Indy Car), Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws), Max Papis and Bobby Hamilton. Bourdais, Papis and Hamilton each registered strong performances and led a lap. Bourdais was in contention and ran near the top during the first half of race, holding the third position when the competitor's yellow flag came out on Lap 40, before falling back fast shortly after the restart.
"We started at the middle of the pack, went to the very back at the start and never really got the help we needed," said a frustrated Bourdais. "The NASCAR drivers work together to help themselves. When they have a choice between me or Mark Martin or anybody else, they pick the guys from the same series. We (the non- NASCAR drivers) need all the help we can find out there."