MARK MARTIN, No. 55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota Camry, Michael Waltrip Racing
Does physical fitness provide an advantage in this sport? "That's a real tough question. I use to answer that question by saying, 'I'm not sure,' because there's not a gauge on people's forehead that says they're doing 100 now and they were doing 50 before. I don't know. I just believe that physical conditioning makes you better at any single thing you do, whether it's going to the grocery store or what. Physical conditioning can make you better. It can make you better physically. It can make you better mentally. It can. Does it? I don't know. It can though. You need to talk to somebody -- I don't know the science behind it and all that, but I just believe that it can make a difference. Certainly it makes a different in other facets of your life, so why wouldn't it make a difference if you were driving a race car?"
How will you look back at COT and its safety innovations? "I don't think much about it. When it was retired, it was a pretty good race car. It had a long way to go when we started on it. It (safety) was huge. That's what will be remembered. We've been lucky too, but the car was a great leap forward in safety. The Gen-6 is an evolution of that car."
How would you feel about having a doctor evaluate drivers after hard hits? "Well, let's say I tripped on a banana peel and broke my thumb. If I want to drive a race car with a broken thumb, I want to drive a race car. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to. I'd rather be the one making the -- it would scare me to death if somebody told me you can't do that. We've raced cars with -- you loo k at what (Brad) Keselowski raced with -- his foot. I've been injured all through the years. I'm not comfortable with somebody saying -- you know, that's all. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Where do you draw the line on things? We're talking about a head injury -- that's different than another physical things like you know. That's all I'm saying. I can't help that. I'm old school. It's just what it is. I don't know that I've ever had a concussion. I've never been knocked out."
Is there a place for fighting in NASCAR and where is the line for starting one? "You need those. You've got to have it and we've had a nice little dose of that the last few years. Gosh, it just seems like good times to me. I never have (been in a fight). I never have. I don't know -- I've been in it a long time and I'm still a little confused. Based on certain things that happen on the race track, on and off, I'm not sure. If you feel like fighting, it don't matter what NASCAR's going to do to you -- you're still going to do it."
What would it take for you to cross that line? "I would much rather handle things in the garage than on the race track. That's probably the best answer I can give you. I do not like handling stuff on the track and I think it needs to be handled man-to-man, eye-to-eye and I think NASCAR should be more lenient on that than handling things on the race track, but I'm not sure they are based on some of things I've seen. But like I said, if it comes down to physical then the consequence is not -- you're going to deal with the consequence later. Usually, if you get to that point where it's going to go down physical, than it doesn't really matter what the repercussions are going to be."
Would it be worse for drivers to handle matters on restrictor plate tracks? "This would be one of the worst places of all to do it, but I don't particularly agree -- I think it shouldn't be handled on the race track anywhere. I can't say that I haven't been a part of that before in the past, but I'm just saying I'm much more of a fan of handling things man-to-man than doing that on the race track. It's not really -- it's not the right thing for multiple reasons. I just don't even think that -- it's disrespectful to tear these cars up. The fact that we don't have to fix them doesn't make it okay. We didn't do that back when we had to fix them ourselves and so I feel that we should continue to respect the equipment as we did when we built them ourselves."
How did you become a fitness fanatic? "I always wanted to do it before I got started. I got started January 1988, but before January 1988 I had to work in the race shop on building my own cars and working with my guys all though my career and I had to work day and night and I didn't have time to carve out to go to the gym. When I signed with Jack Roush, now I didn't have to do that in the shop anymore and I had time to carve that out, so I was able to pursue it. I had always wanted to do it anyway."
What is your normal workout routine? "Right now, it's five days a week -- five or four depending on what the schedule is, but usually five days a week. I only lift weights an hour and try not to let my weight lifting last beyond an hour because it's incredibly intense and some counterproductive to go beyond 60 minutes."
Would you be interested in racing a similar schedule of 26 races in 2014? "I'm not going to even talk about that. It's a good number for me now -- that's why I signed up for it. I like it, but I'm not going to talk about 2014."