Now that he has the early-season gremlins behind him, Mark Martin is content to let the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup take its course.

The consistent level of Martin's performance has improved dramatically since back-to-back engine failures knocked him out of the second and third races of the season, at Auto Club Speedway and Las Vegas, and a crash dropped him to a 43rd-place finish at Talladega in the ninth event.

Martin, who leads the Chase standings by 18 points over three-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, has finished no worse than seventh in his last six events, a stretch that has included a victory and two runner-up results.

"We had maybe an extraordinary amount of things that kind of plagued us or got us, and those things have settled down now," said Martin, who was fastest in Saturday's final practice at Fontana, "And if we have seven more races where we don't have any of that, I have a lot of confidence in the performance of this race team, and [we'll] see how it works out.

"Right now, we're not really focused on all of that down the road. We're focused on the racing and going to let the racing decide."

Martin will start ninth Sunday in the fourth race of the ten-event Chase.

by Reid Spencer / Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service