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Gordon foils Martin's Busch series finale


© St. Petersburg Times, published November 12, 2000

HOMESTEAD -- A driver making his final Busch Grand National start did win the Miami 300 on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

It just wasn't Mark Martin.

Jeff Gordon led the final 71 laps and beat Martin to finish line by .241 seconds in the season-ending race.

"The focus should have been on Mark Martin and his last race," said Gordon, who drives the No. 24 Chevrolet. "I know how bad he wanted to win that last race. I'm just tickled that I was able to battle with a guy like Mark in my last Busch race."

Martin, citing a desire to focus solely on his Winston Cup career, leaves the series with a record 45 wins but left open the possibility of returning.

"I'm going to try to smile more, stop and sign that autograph that I haven't had time to sign all day," said Martin, who drives the No. 60 Ford. "The only thing that is going to leave a hole in my life is if my Winston Cup car runs like a dog. ... When that Winston Cup car runs bad, if I get in a Busch car, at least everybody says it's not me. "It's not Mark.' "

With the help of a 16.1-second pit stop during the last of five cautions, Gordon beat Jeff Green and Martin off pit road and took the lead on Lap 129.

Martin made numerous attempts to close the gap between he and Gordon in the closing laps, often driving on the apron, but couldn't as Gordon won his fifth career Busch race after starting eighth.

"There wasn't anything I could do," Martin said. "I could catch him, but then I'd lose the front end. I tried, but I couldn't do it."

Green, who clinched the championship on Oct. 29 at Memphis, finished third followed by Jason Keller and Jeff Burton.

"We got a little better there at the end, but it just wasn't enough for Gordon or Martin," Green said. "For anybody to beat Mark Martin, he's done a great job. My hat's off to Jeff Gordon."

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