Mark Martin crashes out of Michigan

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Mark Martin walked away unhurt from an unusual and frightening crash Sunday while he was leading the Pure Michigan 400.

Martin had led most of the race when he was coming up on cars in front of him that he was about to lap as he exited Turn 4.

A moment before Martin reached them on Lap 65, Juan Pablo Montoya got under Bobby Labonte's car and caused Labonte to spin.

That bunched up the leaders behind them, causing Kasey Kahne to bump Martin from behind.

Both cars started spinning down toward pit road. Kahne's car spun in the grass, but Martin's No. 55 Toyota was sliding down pit road at a high speed. It turned around before reaching a pit-road opening where the wall juts out.

The rear left-quarter panel slammed hard into the edge of the pit-wall opening, popping the back of the car off the ground and ripping through the body of the car.

Part of the frame of the car was pierced by the impact, so it was fortunate the hit wasn't directly to the door panel. But the door area next to the driver does have crush panels in front of the cage. Also, the Car of Tomorrow chassis has a driver compartment that is moved to the right a few inches closer to the middle of the car.

One of Kahne's pit-crew workers managed to jump away just before Martin's car hit the wall, rocking tires and equipment in Kahne's pit.

The rear housing of Martin's car caught fire, but safety workers quickly extinguished the flames and Martin climbed out.

"Heck, I don't know," Martin said with a chuckle when asked what happened. "The 47 (Labonte) got turned around and we got jammed up and the 5 (Kahne) got in the back of me. It's disappointing we got tore up, but what a hot rod. I'm just glad I got to drive that thing. It was awesome."

Martin, 53, is racing part time this season. Sunday was his 15th start in 23 races.