LOUDON, N.H. — Mark Martin is off to a good start in this year’s Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship, after winning Sunday’s Sylvania 300, the first of 10 Chase races.There were three late cautions and restarts, and each time, Martin pulled away from the other cars. The last restart came with just three laps remaining in the 300-lap race and pitted Martin against the polesitter, Juan Montoya, who finished third.
“Alan Gustafson (Martin’s crew chief) is the man,” said Martin. “He’s the one that won this race. This is a dream come true. Pinch me, I’m sure I’m sleeping.”
It was Martin’s fifth win of the season, and he now has a 35-point lead in Chase points.
Denny Hamlin, last week’s winner at Richmond, passed Montoya on the last lap to finish second.
“We had a good car and several times, we were as good as Mark, but he drove a great race,” said Hamlin.
Montoya appeared to be sore after not gaining the lead from Martin on the last restart.
“Uh, it was good, but Martin just screwed me on the restart. He stopped his car on the apex and I liked to have run into him. I have no idea. I could have pushed him out of the way.
“Next time I don’t know, maybe I won’t wreck him, but I will push him out of the way.”
Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Elliott Sadler, Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-10 finishers.
Tony Stewart developed a loose wheel midway of the race, and had a lengthy pit stop while crewmembers replaced a wheel-stud. He wound up 14th.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was running fourth with 18 laps to go, when David Reutimann slipped and bumped Earnhardt’s No. 88.
“The 00 (Reutimann) got loose in the corner and came up into the side of my car, knocking me into the wall,” said Earnhardt. “We had a good car, but when you’re racing hard, that’s going to happen.”
Earnhardt finished 35th.
Jeff Gordon was not able to run with the leaders and finished 15th.
Carl Edwards did lead a few laps, but he had handling problems late in the race and finished 16th.
Kasey Kahne only completed 66 laps and dropped to 12th in the Chase.
Chase contenders after 1 of 10: 1. Martin-5,230, 2. Johnson-5,195, 3. Hamlin-5,195, 4. Montoya-5,175, 5. Kurt Busch-5,165, 6. Stewart-5,156, 7. Newman-5,151, 8. Vickers-5,140, 9. Biffle-5,138, 10. J. Gordon-5,128, 11. Edwards-5,120, 12. Kahne-5,069.
Top 10 Truck leaders after 19 of 25: 1. Hornaday-3,055, 2. Crafton-2,838, 3. Skinner-2,809, 4. Scott-2,608, 5. Braun-2,515, 6. Bodine-2,480, 7. Sauter-2,452, 8. Crawford-2,441, 9. Starr-2,434, 10. Compton-2,423.