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 Wednesday, April 26
Martin voted top driver in first quarter
 
 ESPN.com news services

When he showed up for Busch Series races, the outcome was all but predictable. And after nine Winston Cup races, he was atop the points standings. Mark Martin simply dominated the NASCAR scene over the first three months of the auto racing season. And it was just enough to earn first-quarter honors in 2000 Driver of the Year voting.

Mark Martin
Mark Martin's success in both Winston Cup and the Busch Series during the first quarter of the season swayed voters his way.

Martin combined his Winston Cup success and domination of the Busch Series edge Formula One driver Michael Schumacher in the first-quarter voting by a 16-member panel of national motorsports media representatives and ESPN.com users. Martin received seven first-place votes and 101 points to Schumacher's seven first-place nods and 90 points.

In winning the first-quarter honor, Martin put himself squarely in contention for the symbolic Crystal Eagle trophy, three-carat diamond ring and Indian Motorcycle received by 1999 Driver of the Year and Winston Cup champion Dale Jarrett at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductions last weekend.

For the first time in the 30-year history of the award, fans were able to select their choice by voting through ESPN.com. Fans had a different take on the first quarter, giving their first-place nod to NHRA Funny Car racer Jerry Toliver. Michael Schumacher was second in the fans' voting, while Dale Earnhardt took third in the online vote by over 17,000 users.

"It's a real honor just to be considered, let alone win the first-quarter Driver of the Year balloting," Martin said. "There are so many talented drivers, not just in NASCAR, but in all forms of motorsports. To be considered with the likes of Michael Schumacher is just amazing to me."

Winston Cup driver Bobby Labonte, who led the points championship until Martin overtook him last week at Talladega, finished third in the voting with 36 points. Points are awarded on a 9-6-4-3-2-1 basis to the top six drivers each quarter. The rest of the top six in the first-quarter voting were CART FedEx Series driver Paul Tracy with 31 points; NHRA driver Jeg Coughlin (30) and Pennzoil World of Outlaws driver Danny Lasoski (28).

Martin isn't new to the Driver of the Year voting.

"I won the third quarter ballot in 1993 and that was after I won four races in a row," Martin recalled. "I'm not sure what I've done to deserve this honor so far this year, but I intend to continue giving 100 percent to this team and our effort to win the Winston Cup title."

Martin took over the Winston Cup points lead following last week's DieHard 500. He won the Goody's Body Pain 500 at Martinsville earlier this season, along with four of five Busch Series races he's entered in 2000. Martin will receive a bronze eagle sculpture symbolizing his first-quarter honor at a Winston Cup race later this season.

This is the first season Formula One drivers have been included in the Driver of the Year balloting and Schumacher made a strong case for winning the honor over the first quarter of racing action. He's won all three F1 races so far in 2000 and leads the points standings by a wide margin.

A final Driver of the Year ballot will be taken at the end of the season to determine the winner for 2000. The winner will then be announced at a New York Luncheon and formerly honored at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame inductions next April.