Futile Chase aside, it's been a great ride for Mark Martin

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Mark Martin is toast.

You know it. I know it. He knows it. The kid driving the Go Kart down the street knows it.

Martin is currently the 15th man in a 12-man race to qualify for NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup entering Saturday's final run at Richmond.

"I haven't done the math," he said Tuesday, "but I don't think [the odds are] very good."

You are correct, sir. Martin is 147 points away from qualifying. Anyone within 161 points of 12th place is still eligible to make the Chase, but it would virtually take a bunch of cars wrecking in the first few laps Saturday night for Martin to roll into NASCAR's 10-race playoff.

Greg Biffle is in 11th place but looks solid — he has a 161-point lead over 13th-place Ryan Newman. All Biffle needs to do is finish 42nd or better to clinch. Clint Bowyer, currently 12th, has a 117-point lead over Newman. All he has to do is finish 28th or better to clinch.

Jamie McMurray (128 points out) and Martin are extreme bubble boys.

We measure greatness in different ways, not just by points and championships. Few people would have the nerve to rip on Martin for becoming a career underachiever, despite finishing second in the points chase five times since his first career start April 15, 1981 in North Wilkesboro.

One of those times was last year, when he came out of "semi-retirement" to run a full schedule.

"It would have destroyed the season for us to miss the Chase last year, because we knew if we could get in it, we could win it," he said.

This year, not as much.

Martin's No 5. Kellogg's/Godaddy.com Chevrolet has yet to win in 25 starts this season, and has an average finish of 19.6 in the last five races. He does the math and knows he would belong by the flimsiest of margins.

There is no looking back. There was a time back in his young and wilder days Martin would have been furious at the circumstances. But now, at 51, he can take an introspective look at his career and missed opportunities at championships.

"It wouldn't have changed my life," Martin said "…I don't think I'd be a different person. I don't think I'd have a different ride. I don't think I'd have more sponsors or anything else.

"When I look back on it, I've been very, very fortunate to have been incredibly successful at doing what I have passion for and love. And I'm no champion. I'm just lucky I got to win a pile of races."

Martin has 40 of those in his career.

It's a nice pile to have on your resume.

Don't stop, Burton: In a tight economy, you rely on all your available resources to get things done.

Jeff Burton, can you help repave the Daytona International Speedway?

Burton will be at the Speedway today as part of a ceremonial time capsule event . He will climb aboard a piece of Caterpillar equipment to repave a portion of the Speedway, and then assist Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood by burying a time capsule at the start/finish line.

It's an interesting smorgasbord of items, including a piece of the pothole from the 2010 Daytona 500, a newspaper clipping proclaiming Barack Obama as the new President, and a mini die cast of Kevin Harvick's winning car in the 2010 Coke Zero 400.

The repaving is going along, um, smoothly, even without Burton's help. The most recent piece of work involved the 31-degree high banks in Turns 3 and 4.

Drivers will be able to test the new surface sometime in January 2011. Sprint Cup teams have reportedly been told the tentative testing dates are Jan. 17-19.

"We have not finalized our testing calendar, but we will have testing in January," Daytona Speedway spokesman Andrew Booth said Tuesday.

Expanding borders: NASCAR's push for diversity keeps stretching into unmarked territories. India anyone? Narain Karthikeyan is trying to become another crossover star.

The first Indian driver to break into the Formula One is running a limited schedule on the Camping World Truck series and is making some noise as a up-and-coming driver to watch.

He has run seven races and finished in the top 20 five times. His best is 11th at the WinStar World Casino 400K in June.

"I've had a great tour so far," Karthikeyan said recently. "You realize how big NASCAR is only once you go out there and see it. The more time I get in NASCAR, I will feel more comfortable. Overall it's been quite good, and we are hoping that it gets even better."

Karthikeyan's interest in stock car racing spiked after watching the success of Juan Pablo Montoya after he made the switch from F1 in 2006. He brings 22 seasons of experience in open-wheel racing, including Formula 1 and the Le Mans Series.

Karthikeyan, 33, is driving the Wyler Racing No. 60 SafeAuto Chevrolet Silverado for Starbeast Motorsports.

Look who's back: An old face will be in the mix of teams at Richmond. Terry LaBonte will be behind the wheel to mark the debut of Stavola Labonte Racing. Labonte has not raced in the Sprint Cup since Homestead last year and isn't guaranteed a spot in the field.

"I know there are still fans who saw him win championships and put on great shows that will welcome him back to the race track," Mark Martin said.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com

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