Plain bad luck played role in Junior's downfall, Martin says

10/27/2007 - NASCAR


HAMPTON, Ga. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. has had seven blown engines this season, but Dale Earnhardt Inc. teammate Mark Martin isn't concerned.


Jeff Gordon will serve as the grand marshal and give the "start your engine" command on Sunday, the 15th anniversary of his first Cup start at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"For the first time, the entire crowd may actually cheer for something I did," said Gordon, who normally is booed during driver introductions. "Or then again, this may be the first time that the command is booed."

Gordon has won 81 races and four titles since that first race. What he remembers most is the fuss that was made over seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty, who will serve as the honorary starter on Sunday.

"It is pretty amazing from where I stand, of how much as gone on in my life and my career for those past 15 years," Gordon said. "I was so young and naive and clueless as to what was ahead."

"The reliability issue is being beefed up and being addressed," Martin said. "We need more margin in the engines so that you can't hurt them if you miss a shift or anything else.

"In today's age you have to have a lot of margin, and they were a little close on the margin making great horsepower."

Martin added that not all of Earnhardt's problems were engine related.

"He's had incredibly bad luck," he said. "Half the failures were not engine failures to start with. Like the oil pump belt fell off. The record doesn't show oil pump belt fell off. It shows engine blew up."


Kurt Busch can relate to what Carl Edwards is going through since his on-camera confrontation with Roush Fenway Racing teammate Matt Kenseth when it comes to public perception.

"I really don't keep up that much with what people think, with what people think is a good guy or a bad guy," he said. "I live every day in the face of the fans eyes of, 'Wow, you are really a nice guy. I thought you were going to be a [jerk].'

"That's what I live with every day. So, we'll see what happens with Carl here leading into the next few races."


Jeremy Mayfield and Scott Riggs, teammates at Gillett Evernham Motorsports a year ago, have been reunited at Haas CNC Racing.

Mayfield will make his debut for Haas on Sunday. Riggs, who will be replaced by Patrick Carpentier the final two races this season at EMS, will join him in 2008.

"It will be cool," Mayfield said. "Scott is a good driver, and I like Scott a lot. We have already worked together well in the past and had no problems whatsoever. He and I respect each other and that is what it is going to take and be good teammates."

David Newton covers NASCAR for ESPN.com. He can be reached at dnewtonespn@aol.com.