Mark Martin won the Sam's Town 300 Nationwide Series race in Las Vegas and Danica Patrick was fourth — the best finish by a woman in one of NASCAR's top three series.
LAS VEGAS — Mark Martin knew he had to save gas to have any chance of winning the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Even then, he was going to need help.
He got it when leader Brad Keselowski cut a tire on the final lap of Saturday’s race, and Martin sailed past him for the victory. It was the fourth victory in six Nationwide races at Las Vegas for Martin.
“I can’t gloat. If Brad hadn’t of had a tire problem, he looked like he would win,” said Martin, 52. “All I could do is make sure we didn’t run out of gas.”
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The race will most likely be remembered, though, for Danica Patrick’s history-making run and not the last-lap dramatics.
Patrick placed fourth, the best finish for a woman in one of NASCAR’s top three series. The previous best was Sara Christian’s fifth in Pittsburgh in 1949.
“Awesome!” Martin said when told of Patrick’s finish. “I am really happy for her. That’s fantastic.”
It was a turnaround for IndyCar Series standout Patrick, who struggled all weekend in Las Vegas and fell a lap down in Saturday’s race. But she put herself in position to get back on the lead lap and steadily worked her way into the top 10.
Fuel strategy did the rest, as many cars in front of her had to make late stops for gas and Patrick moved up.
“We just had a good car, that’s all I can say. That’s what makes a difference in these things,” said Patrick. “I know I haven’t had the best results, especially in NASCAR, but we’re getting them now.”
Patrick, who has 16 NASCAR starts, improved on her previous career-best finish of 14th, earned at Daytona last month.
“I don’t know. I don’t think about trying to achieve the highest finish of a female,” she said. “I think about trying to win the race.”
Derrike Cope of Spanaway was 25th of 43.
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Pruett and Rojas, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, won the final three Daytona Prototype races last year and took the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.