AVONDALE, ARIZ. (AP) - Mark Martin continued to defy his age, becoming the first 50-year-old driver to win a Sprint Cup race in 16 years with a victory Saturday night at Phoenix International Raceway.
Martin, who has waffled on retirement several times in the last four years, started from the pole and led 157 of 312 laps. He was out front when teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s accident brought out a caution with 11 laps to go, erasing a 4-second lead he held over Tony Stewart.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson debated with Martin on strategy before the Hendrick Motorsports team called Martin in. He won a close race with Kyle Busch off pit road, then Busch was flagged for speeding.
Martin settled into second place behind Ryan Newman, who didn’t pit. Martin then shot past Newman on the restart with six laps to go, then cruised to his first win since Kansas at 2005.
“No burnouts for me,” he radioed his crew. “Just a backward Polish victory lap for my man Alan Kulwicki.”
The last 50-year-old to win a Cup race was Morgan Shepherd in 1993 at Atlanta. Harry Gant holds the record as the oldest driver to win a Cup race. He was 52 when he won at Michigan in 1992.
Before Martin, only three drivers 50 or older ever won Cup races: Gant, Shepherd and Bobby Allison.
Martin was visited by several competitors in Victory Lane, including former boss Jack Roush and former teammates Jeff Burton and Matt Kenseth.
Stewart was second, followed by Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.