Martin wins but rookie steals show

Published 4:07 am Monday, May 11, 2009

DARLINGTON, S.C. (AP) — It was a sight Tony Stewart couldn’t take his eyes off — the No. 20 Home Depot car running up front late in the race at Darlington.

And it made little difference Stewart was a few car lengths behind watching his Joe Gibbs Racing successor drive one of the best races of his brief Sprint Cup career.

On a night when 50-year-old Mark Martin again proved he’s among sports’ best, teen sensation Joey Logano nearly stole the show.

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‘‘I led laps in the Southern 500,’’ Logano said. ‘‘I was stoked about that.’’

Plus, he earned praise from Stewart, the man who drove Logano’s machine to two Sprint Cup titles.

‘‘When he was leading the race, I was smiling because I knew those guys have been waiting for this for a couple of weeks now,’’ said Stewart, who finished third behind Martin and Jimmie Johnson. ‘‘It’s just a matter of time before Joey got going.’’

Logano, who turns 19 on May 24, led 19 laps — nearly four times as many he had this season — and was out front with fewer than 100 miles left. He ended ninth, matching his best-ever NASCAR finish at a track known for sending rookies into the wall and then laughing in their faces.