BROOKLYN, MICH., AUG. 19 -- Mark Martin pulled away from the field and padded his Winston Cup point lead with what he called an "almost perfect" race in today's Champion Spark Plug 400. "We had a race car we've been looking for for a while," said Martin, 31.

It was a sweet victory for Martin, who is trying to earn his first series title while fighting off three-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

"We've been looking for a win to kick off the momentum that we really need {for} the championship. Today was the day. We won this thing convincingly," Martin said.

Martin averaged 138.821 mph in his second victory this season.

His Ford Thunderbird led 70 of the final 76 laps, including the last 39, in the 400-mile race on Michigan International Speedway's two-mile, high-banked oval. He finished 1.7 seconds ahead of the Chevrolet Lumina of Greg Sacks.

Rusty Wallace, defending race and series champion, was third, just ahead of Bill Elliott and Ricky Rudd, who made a great charge after starting 39th of the 41 cars. Earnhardt, who appeared to be the one to beat in the race's first half, faded to eighth. Through 19 of 29 races, Martin leads the series, 2,854-2,806 points.

Early in the race, the battle was close among Earnhardt, Wallace, Martin and Elliott, but Martin took control after passing Wallace for the lead on Lap 124.

Dick Trickle cut a tire and tapped the backstretch wall on Lap 165, bringing out the sixth caution flag in a race that had no serious accidents or injuries, and bunching the leaders.

Those final laps were an agonizing time. "We've had some good runs lately spoiled by some bad luck -- flat tires, crashes and those kinds of things," said Martin.

To keep his mind off such mischances, he "asked Steve {Hmiel, the crew chief} to talk to me every lap there at the end," he said. "He told me my splits, lap times, how many laps to go, and anything else he could think of. I guess it was a little overkill, but it kept me from getting too worked up."