Martin jumps up to Chase lead

Mark Martin has claimed the lead of NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup thanks to his four victories in the first 26 races of the season

Martin jumps up to Chase lead

The 50-year-old arrived at Richmond in 10th place in the drivers' standings but his fourth place finish moved him up to sixth. However with the Chase points system applied, Martin jumps up to lead the championship.

All of the top 12 drivers have had their total score increased to 5000 points, plus 10 more for every win during the regular season. Martin's four victories mean he leads now by ten points over former leader Tony Stewart and reigning champion Jimmie Johnson, who have won three races thus far.

"Well, that's certainly cool," said Martin about his championship lead. "I'm certainly going to enjoy that for a week here. I feel like a whole new person, huge weight off my shoulders. It's just like I said before, to make this thing is the icing and now we get to go race for the cake.

"Of course, I'm living in it now, but to me, this is certainly the best year of my career, the most fun, and since Chicago, some of that fun has been sort of smothered out by all of the pressure. We are in, we are out, we are in, all that. But the thing that I'm excited about is our race team has been so strong since Chicago.

"The cars have got better and better on the racetrack, and Chicago, Indy, Bristol, Michigan, and here, I don't think we ever ran outside the top five, and those are the kind of race cars and the kind of effort that you have to give to be a championship contender. So we'll see how things fare here."

The Hendrick driver has finished as runner up in NASCAR's top championship four times during his 27-year career, and just as he refused to talk about making the Chase for the past few weeks, he has now played down the fact the he has one more shot at getting that elusive first title this year.

"I'm not really thinking about it," said Martin. "It's not something that defines my career. I didn't take this job to win the championship. I took this job to drive a fast race car and hopefully win a race.

"And you know, I don't think you can will your way to scoring points. I tried that, for 19 years. I tried to will my way, will more points than we were scoring on the racetrack, and it never worked. And it was very frustrating.

"So what we will do and what I will do is do my very best. I'm a really intense person, I'm really competitive, and I will give every ounce that I have at it just like I do every time. And we'll see how it turns out."

Martin last led the standings in March 2007 while running a part-time season for Ginn Racing, but he gave up his spot once he sat out the fifth race of the year as he had originally planned.

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