Mark Martin says he can give Jimmie Johnson a run for his money in the final two NASCAR Sprint Cup races of the year after his title hopes were revived by Johnson's Texas crash.
Veteran Martin made good use of the only opportunity he has had in this year's Chase to gain big points on Johnson in the title race, finishing fourth at Texas while the reigning champion could only manage a 38th place following an early accident.
While many drivers attempted to finish the race without a splash of fuel and failed to do so, Martin pitted a few laps from the end and was able to get back in the top five by the end of the race.
Next weekend, the penultimate round of the title race takes place at Phoenix, where Martin was dominant earlier this year. He says plenty of things can still happen in the points in the final two races of the season.
"Yeah, we can go head to head with [Johnson], no doubt about it," said Martin. "At Phoenix we led the most laps and won the last time there and we have no reason to think we can't run strong at Homestead.
"There could still be swings in the points. There are two races left, you never know what's going to happen. I'm really blessed to get to drive their stuff and be in this position. No matter what the outcome is, we've raced our guts out and I'm so proud of this team."
Martin, who still refuses to speak about the possibility of becoming Cup champion for the first time, says the fight for points is anything but over, not only for him but also for those running behind him, even if he admits that Johnson's performance will be hard to match.
"When it comes right down to performance, you know you can't beat Jimmie Johnson and those guys," said Martin. "It's not over yet. I'm still kind of baffled why everybody is so preoccupied with first and second. The top six spots are being raced for like a dogfight. I've got two past champions who knocked me out of championships breathing down my neck, so the race is still on for all of us."
While Martin is now 73 points behind Johnson in the championship, Jeff Gordon trails him by 39 points and Sunday's winner Kurt Busch is 98 points off his second place in the standings.