Originally created 04/08/06

Martin relies on his years



FORT WORTH, Tex. - At 47, Mark Martin is 12 years older than anyone else ranked in the top 10 of the Nextel Cup Series standings.

"I look around and see all these kids out there doing this stuff, but I've really stayed committed all through my career and I've stayed committed to my physical fitness program," Martin said. "It's a lot harder work when you get to my age to get it done. We're working real hard to get it done, and, like I said, I'm having the time of my life."

While Martin said he doesn't move as quickly as the other drivers in the top 10, he said his experience is a bonus.

"I didn't even know I could wreck," Martin said of racing 12 years ago. "Now I know it's a possibility. Everybody matures at a different rate. The advantage is, hopefully you make fewer mistakes in judgment with more experience. ... The disadvantage is that you know better than to do some of the things that you might have gotten away with as a younger one."

EYE ON TIGER: Busch Series rookie David Gilliland has a reason to cheer for Tiger Woods in this week's Masters Tournament. They were high school teammates.

"I guess it's a pretty big weekend for both of us," said Gilliland, whose Chevrolet is 11th on the starting grid for today's O'Reilly 300. "I'm preparing for another big step in my career at Texas. Tiger is looking to place himself in the record books again.

"I'm sure we're both excited for different reasons this weekend."

Gilliland and Woods both played at Western High in Anaheim, Calif., for two years. He quit playing golf after high school to devote his attention to racing.

"It's one of the reasons that I quit playing golf," Gilliland said. "I want to be the very best at everything I do. I just couldn't beat Tiger at golf or Ping-Pong. I think everyone knew he was going to be good back then."

SMALLER GAS TANKS: Cars in the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway will have 14-gallon gas tanks, NASCAR said.

The reason for the smaller tanks is to force more pit stops so teams can monitor tire wear on the 1.5-mile racetrack.

There were several flat tires last year, and the track was re-paved recently. Until NASCAR is convinced the tire problems are gone, they will use smaller tanks for more pit stops.

The current gas tank holds 22 gallons of gas.

PIT STOPS: Petty Enterprises and STP will team up for two races, bringing back one of the most-famous racing logos in stock car history. The red, white and blue STP color scheme made popular by Richard Petty will return to Bobby Labonte's No. 43 Dodge for races at Talladega, Ala., and Richmond, Va.

Reach Don Coble at don.coble@morris.com.