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Fortune favors Mark Martin at Las Vegas

Mark Martin celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Mark Martin celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

By Reid Spencer
Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service

LAS VEGAS - Hold on, Kyle Busch.

Mark Martin isn't giving up without a fight. 

In a fuel-mileage race that saw Danica Patrick post the best-ever result for a female driver in one of NASCAR's top three national series, Martin took the checkered flag Saturday for the 49th time in the Nationwide Series, holding off - at least temporarily - Busch's assault on Martin's career wins record.

Martin got the most out of his final tank of fuel and cruised to the finish line after Brad Keselowski, then the race leader, cut a tire and slammed the outside wall on the final lap of the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Justin Allgaier ran second, with Keselowski limping home in third.

After falling two laps down earlier in the race, Danica Patrick rallied to finish fourth. Patrick's previous best finish was 14th last month at Daytona.

Martin got the opportunity to extend his career wins lead to five races over Busch when Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., running 1-2 late in the race, pitted for fuel on Lap 189.

Martin's fourth victory in six Las Vegas starts was the first for Turner Motorsports, which fields four cars in the Nationwide Series. That seemed more important to Martin than keeping his series lead over Busch.

"Kyle will pass me, probably by midseason, and that will be that," Martin said. "It's been a good ride-Jack Ingram was the man when I was coming. That record is going to fall soon. I'm sure it'll fall this year, based on the incredible job they do.

"We got us another trophy. That's all I care about. I don't care how many I ever won before. This one's the one that's special, 'cause this one's today. And more important than me. This is Turner's and (crew chief) Trent (Owens') first win. That's the coolest. The last time we won here (2008), it was Dale Jr.'s (first win as a car owner) as well.

"Those are the kinds of milestones that I look at with pride."

Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne finished fifth Saturday, followed by Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Stenhouse, Jason Leffler and Kenny Wallace.

Busch had opened a lead of more than 10 seconds after a round of green-flag pit stops early in the race, as Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Keselowski and Hamlin all had issues on pit road. NASCAR, however called a caution on Lap 65 because of fluid on the racetrack, and Busch's lead evaporated.

His winning chances likewise disappeared on Lap 130, when Busch made an aggressive move off Turn 4, clipped the infield grass as he tried to avoid Keselowski's Dodge and slid through the tri-oval. Ultimately, the left front of Busch's Toyota smacked the inside wall at the entry to Turn 1, and his race was over.

"I had a really big run off the top, and I didn't want to go to the outside," Busch explained. "I wanted to kind of get down and be on the bottom, so I could get down on the white line in Turn 1. I didn't even make it that far. I got to the bottom of the 22 (Keselowski), and I guess he came to block a little bit.

"I didn't want to run into him, so I went into the grass, and I know the grass typically doesn't work, so I looked kind of stupid doing that. Tried to hang on to it, and just couldn't get it back straight in enough time and got into the inside wall."