Chase hopes fading for Martin, Hamlin, Gordon


CONCORD, N.C. -- Three drivers in the hunt for the Nextel Cup title might have seen their chances come to an end Saturday night at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Mark Martin and Denny Hamlin were involved in wrecks and Jeff Gordon blew an engine, putting all three drivers far back in the standings with five races left.

Martin, who entered the night third in the points race, 10 behind Jeff Burton, was coming out of the fourth turn on the inside with 91 laps to go when J.J. Yeley was attempting to pit. Yeley rammed into Martin, whose car hit the outside wall hard.

Martin, who was not injured, finished 30th and fell to fourth, 102 points behind Burton. It was another bad break for the 20-year veteran who is still looking for his first points title.

"The championship is not really something that's meant to be for me, ever," Martin said.

Hamlin couldn't get through the first lap. Robby Gordon's car got loose coming out of the fourth turn, Hamlin slowed down to avoid him, but Mike Bliss hit Hamlin from behind.

Hamlin, who qualified 22nd, returned to the track later, 60 laps down, but finished 28th. He dropped one spot to sixth, 137 back.

"We checked up and somebody else didn't and it's a chain reaction," said Hamlin, who entered the night 51 points behind. "I mean, I kind of put myself back there qualifying that bad."

Gordon was running fourth when his engine died with 33 laps to go. Gordon, seventh in the standings going in, dropped to 10th, 216 back.

"We pride ourselves on our engine department," Gordon said. "It's just not meant to be for us this year."