NATIONWIDE Sam's Town 300

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Martin sets mark in Sam's Town 300

Mar 2, 2008 - 1:02 AM By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

LAS VEGAS (Ticker) -- Mark Martin recorded a record-setting victory in controversial fashion at Saturday's Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Increasing his all-time NASCAR Nationwide Series career win mark to 48, Martin caused a late crashed that helped him prevail in the race.

Martin ran into the back of Carl Edwards' Ford while attempting to give him a push. Instead, it sent Edwards' car out of control and crashing into race leader Brad Keselowski's Chevrolet, sending both cars into the wall.

Martin and Greg Biffle were able to get back by the crash but it brought out the yellow flag with five laps to go.

"I have to apologize before I do any celebrating," Martin said of his third victory here in the Nationwide Series. "I have to apologize to Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski. I hate that it happened but I sure didn't intend for that to happen."

Martin was driving in this race for JR Motorsports - which is owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. - but has an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports. The crash ended up taking out Keselowski, another Hendrick Nationwide driver.

"You fear that, that's the worst thing that happens when you have multiple cars in a race, but Mark is one of the cleanest, neatest drivers in racing," team owner Rick Hendrick said. "It's going to happen sooner or later and I hate it happened today."

That set up a green-white-checkered flag finish and a two-lap shootout with Martin ahead of Biffle's Ford and Kevin Harvick's Chevrolet third. That's how the race ended.

"I'm not happy getting an DNF (did not finish) in a race I felt we had a chance of winning," Keselowski said. "We're going to win some races if we keep this up. I feel great about our effort. I'm not sure what happened at the end with Carl and all of that."

Edwards admitted to being disappointed by the outcome.

"I'd like to be really mad at Mark, but Mark is a heck of a guy and has a lot of respect," Edwards said. "I'm sure it was just a mistake."

Tony Stewart's hopes of winning the first three Nationwide Series races of the year ended in a crash on lap 138. In a fierce battle with David Reutimann, the two cars touched and crashed into the fourth-turn wall.

At the time, the two drivers were battling for fourth position but Stewart had led 61 of the first 138 laps.

"We got in a wreck," Stewart said. "I'm still responsible for my car and it got out from underneath me."

Kyle Busch, one of the main challengers in the race, crashed into the wall on the 105th lap when the right-front tire blew up on his Toyota. The ruined the possibility of adding the Nationwide Series points lead to his leads in the Sprint Cup and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

After four laps of caution following the Stewart crash, racing resumed on lap 143 with Martin in the lead.

Jeff Burton, the defending champion, dropped out after 159 laps when a rear-end gear broke. Burton drove the Chevrolet into the garage and was out of the race.

"Something happened to the engine," Burton said. "It's one of those days. Every time we turned around we were fighting something. It was going to be a lot of fun with two old guys racing for the win."

With a hunk of metal off Kelly Bires' car on the race track, NASCAR officials threw a record-tying 12th caution flag of the race with 15 laps to go. That set up a crucial pit stop for the top contenders.

Martin, the race leader, took two tires on the stop but Edwards was the first off pit road. Keselowski and Dario Franchitti did not pit and were in front when the green flag waved with 10 laps to go.

Franchitti was quickly dispatched as the racing got fierce before the late crash.

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