Non-Chaser report: Mark Martin's getting started a little late

With all the focus in the Chase on the 12 drivers competing for the Cup, the other 31 cats in the field get ignored. We aim to correct that oversight right here. Today, we look at Mark Martin's third-place run at Texas, his second top-3 in three weeks.

Somebody needs to reset Mark Martin's clock. He's either way too early or way too late. Two weeks ago, aided by a fortuitous engineering gift that allowed his damaged car to rocket at astonishing speeds, he posted a second-place finish in Martinsville, and this week, he wrapped a third-place finish at Texas.

Buoyed by a late pit call not to take tires, Martin ran as well as he has all season. "(The car) was really awesome on the long runs, wasn't quite as sharp on the restarts on new tires, and Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) made a great, great call at the end," Martin said. "I think it ran better on the ten lap tires than it would have on new tires. It was a very good call. Like I say, the car ran probably better there at the end by not changing tires than it would have on new tires. It took it a while to come around."

It's been a rough year for Martin, between rumors that he was getting pushed out by Kasey Kahne and the impossible task of living up to his five-win, second-place overall finish in 2009. He's managed seven top-5 finishes, but four of those came in the season's first nine races. Still, he's got one more year at Hendrick Motorsports, and he's as legit a 2011 Chase contender as any of the non-Chasers this year.

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