Daytona 500: Martin - Media Day visit

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM IMPALA met with media and discussed how the economy is affecting sponsorships in the sport, physical strength requirements for success in NASCAR, on being a championship contender, racing in his 50's, and more. Q....

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM IMPALA met with media and discussed how the economy is affecting sponsorships in the sport, physical strength requirements for success in NASCAR, on being a championship contender, racing in his 50's, and more.

Q. Is the sport tempered by the money the sponsors bring to the table?

MARK MARTIN: You know, some it does and some it doesn't. That is personality in itself, you know. That's what makes people different. Some people have big sponsors, big-money sponsors, and they still show their backsides. And, you know what, they don't lose 'em. But then there's some who, for all kinds of reasons, don't want to do that. Not only are they afraid of losing their backing, but also it matters a lot to them that they disappoint, they disappoint their owners, they disappoint their backers, they disappoint their sponsors. Sometimes that's worse than losing the backing, just feeling like you disappointed or let some people down that mean so much to you.

That's all personality. That's all just like Carol Yarborough, David Pearson, Richard Petty. You name it, that's personality, too. You just overlook that.

Q. Do you think the racing has changed all that much? You hear fans saying they wish it could go back to the way it was.

MARK MARTIN: Need to find a time machine, then, go back to 1975. It ain't ever going to be '75 again unless they can find that time machine.

Things change. You guys were doing your stories on a typewriter. Go get you a typewriter if you really want it. But, you know, the new age is there. You got to face it. The new age it here in everything. And racing is today an evolution of that. And is every piece of everyone's life, is also that way.

Yeah, there were some things about old school that was really cool, but it can't be completely like that. You can get back a little bit or you can have a little bit of a throwback. But life has changed, and racing has changed.

Q. (Question regarding safety changes and injuries.)

MARK MARTIN: Don't just go and say and don't let me go and say that today we're soft because it's changed. Are we soft? Well, we're probably not driving with broken necks, you know. That might not happen today. And we have SAFER barriers. We don't get hurt as much. That's more than the cars. The concrete curbs, we used to hit those. So it's different now. We don't get hurt as much and we wouldn't be allowed to race with the severe kind of injuries that we were allowed to race years ago.

That only makes it different.

Q. What are the challenges of today's drivers, whether it's competition, that you have to be a stronger driver?

MARK MARTIN: Let me tell you off the top of my head because I'm real shallow and dumb as hell, but one of the things is that the competition is so close now that you're forced and pushed to raise your physical and mental level so far beyond where you used to because it was more diverse, you know, out there as far as different physical and mental levels, demands, all those kinds of things.

Now, you know, it's all so close that you have to fight so hard to try to stay even or get above your competition that, you know, it's shifted.

It is different. The manly man, you know, Ricky Rudd, Tate, Sterling. I ran Daytona here in '99. On Friday night I broke my wrist, my knee and a rib, and I raced Saturday night with all that stuff. You probably don't see that today, you know. A lot of times I don't think even NASCAR would let you.

Q. So you don't think a torn ACL is a big deal?

MARK MARTIN: I think it would hurt like hell, but I don't think it's going - I don't know. It's not a big deal, you know, as far as... But from a pain side. Some things can really hurt a lot but, you know, like if you got a back problem like I had, or a foot, or knee, ankle, leg, something like that, can cause you immense pain but not be considered...

I wish NASCAR would stay the hell out of it. I would say if you think you're man enough to get in it, you ought to be able to drive. But, like I say, this is a different age and a different time.

Q. Do you feel like you could do today what you did a few years ago with a broken wrist the next day?

MARK MARTIN: Yes. But I'm fairly confident they would have looked at me closer physically and might have discouraged me from, you know, driving. They didn't stick their nose in. I felt like it's my business, and they didn't stick their nose in it. Now they do.

Q. The manly man driver exists, but it's a different type of driver in terms of toughness.

MARK MARTIN: Might be a more sophisticated toughness, you think? You're the writer. That came to mind, you know. Might be a little bit more sophisticated kind of toughness.

Q. You've been through periods where we've seen different drivers dominate. Do you think it's good for the sport for Jimmie to be dominating and winning four titles like he is?

MARK MARTIN: You know, I don't think it necessarily has hurt it. You know, there are some things that could be more exciting, but it's also pretty darn exciting to be a part and live a huge part of history, be right in the middle of it and experience it.

In some ways it could be more exciting if it was mixed up a little bit . But in other ways, it's a big deal .

Q. How do you approach the Bud Shootout now since there's no testing? Does that make Saturday night's race even more important to prepare for the 500?

MARK MARTIN: It does. I had to sit it out last year. It was very miserable for me. With the limited track time you get, that's a critical race to be in.

Q. How about is it good for the fans to have that sort of race to kick off the season? What does it do for the sport to prepare you for Speedweeks?

MARK MARTIN: I think it is awesome. I don't know for sure if it has the same luster that it had back when it wasb^0x0011- gosh, the year I was in it in 1982, I think there was only 14 cars, you know. It was very, very elite. It has lost some of its elite status. But it's a darn good way to start off, you know, our season. I think having the Daytona 500 first is also a very good way.

Don't forget, this is NASCAR. If there was a better way of doing it, they probably would already be doing it. Yeah, I love the Shootout. I don't know that we'll ever be able tob^0x0011- part of the excitement was, too, I'm nearly 30 years I've been coming and doing this. The first year I came, I got to race with Yarborough, Richard Petty, all those guys, so it would have been an incredible thrill. Now I'm a little bit more used to it, so it doesn't have quite the same glitter that it might have in 1982. But it really bothered me bad not to be in it last year and lose that track time.

Q. This is kind of a broad question about the state of NASCAR. I think people sometimes like us when they say the sky is falling, they're making changes, we're basing it on our perspective. Mine is less than 10 years. Yours, 30 years in the sport, what do you think is the state of NASCAR?

MARK MARTIN: I think the state of NASCAR is really good, comparatively speaking, to where it peaked let's say two years ago, wherever that time where it peaked. That was an unimaginable peak. NASCAR is only taking a minor reset based on the hit that the economy has taken across the board.

My opinion from the way the economy has affected everything and everyone, NASCAR has experienced a small reset. Now that we have some encouragement with an uptick in the economy, we see that momentum is headed in that direction, it's only better for our fans, who really felt more pain than we did in our sport. But obviously we were affected by it, as well.

I think the glass is way more than half full here with NASCAR.

Q. Do you think people are unfairly harsh on NASCAR?

MARK MARTIN: I think they've been unfairly harsh in certain ways. Last year was very unfairly beating up on the, you know, quality of racing. In my eyes, it was really good, really good. And to hear people tearing it apart because they thought it was not is not realistic to me. That's one example. There's a couple other ways, as well.

But the sport is extremely healthy. It's going to weather this storm better than most sports. And we're already, you know, seeing positive momentum for everyone.

Q. (Indiscernible)

MARK MARTIN: It would be the biggest trophy I have.

Q. Some people look at it as the hole in an outstanding r0x00e9sum0x00e9 not to have it.

MARK MARTIN: I'm just lucky to have an outstanding r0x00e9sum0x00e9 with some holes in it (laughter).

Q. Can you put into perspective what you're accomplishing now, now being a contender for the championship? Is that something you could have imagined then, really keeping it in perspective?

MARK MARTIN: I couldn't have imagined it then because I wouldn't have taken this opportunity without having taken a couple years off, charging my batteries, reassessing my life and everything, the changes that went on during that time.

Still maybe, historically speaking, it doesn't register much. What does register is I had the most fun of my life last year, and I'm gonna have a blast this year. I think that's really exciting. Not many people my age can say this is the best it's ever been, and for me it is. So, you know, life's good. A lot of that has to do with where your head's at, your perspective on things. Also a lot of it has to do with, you know, being a part of that 5 team, working with the folks with Hendrick Motorsports.

Q. Do you have 50-year-old guys coming up to you saying, What you're doing is great, and you've become an inspiration to them now?

MARK MARTIN: I have to that segment of fans, of stock car fans, that are in that age group, yeah. We had an enormous wave of momentum build last year through that. That makes me proud to be a part of that. I feel the same thing with Brett Favre or a number of other folks that sort of beat the odds.

Q. Do you think you'll be the last of your breed to race into your 50s?

MARK MARTIN: I don't know. You know, I look at a guy like Jeff Burton, who I think can do it, and will want to do it. Certainly a guy like Carl Edwards. You have to be able to do it, and you have to want to do it both. Put those together and you'll have it.

There will be some guys coming along that will do it.

Q. Are you a better driver now than you were?

MARK MARTIN: I don't know. I don't know as a whole if I am or not. I know that there are segments, you know, that I'm better, and there are probably segments that have declined. So as a whole, I can't say if I'm better or not.

Q. You said you're having more fun now.

MARK MARTIN: I'm as good as I can be now under the circumstances, that I can promise you.

Q. What does it take for you a guy like you to contend for the 500?

MARK MARTIN: Well, it's different than it used to be. Used to you just had to have a really good car, you know. But now everybody's got a really good car, so... Used to you had to have a really good car. That was hard to have. Now you just have to have a car like everyone else's and be in the front at the end.

And there's all different ways for that to happen. That's what makes it so hard. There's just every way you can imagine for that to work out. All 43 cars in the field are trying to do that, so that's how hard it makes it.

Q. All the changes that Hendrick put in with your group and your team, Dale Jr.'s, what is that going to mean for him?

MARK MARTIN: This is Junior's year forb^0x0011- I don't know how to say this. I was going to say 'revenge.' It's his year to take out frustrations and get the results, pound the results. I think that will happen.

Junior, his heart really, really, really is in it. He's incredibly driven to have the success. And his team is behind it. I think you'll see a spectacular year for him.

Q. (Indiscernible)

MARK MARTIN: I hope so. I really do. I hope so. I think it will be good for all of us, good for NASCAR, good for everybody in the sport, certainly good for Rick Hendrick and for Dale Jr. and the 5. It will be good for the 5, too.

Q. You've raced against two of the Hall of Fame inductees. Can you talk about what it was like back in those days a little bit, what it's like knowing they're going in and you were part of that?

MARK MARTIN: Real special. Real special time. I wish we were inducting more faster, you know. I'm anxious, you know, to induct so many more. It's an exciting time in our sport to be able to do this. I wish we would have gotten started sooner.

Q. There's been a lot of focus on Danica Patrick coming to this racetrack. Has she come to you seeking advice and what kind of advice would you give to her?

MARK MARTIN: I haven't spoke to her. I haven't spoke to her. No, she's getting plenty of advice. Dale Jr.'s better at this place than I am, so I'm sure he's coaching her.

Q. Does winning ever get routine for you?

MARK MARTIN: A little bit, yeah. It can. That's why you have to think about it, you know. Every time you win, you have to think, This could be the last chance I have to do this, and savor it.

Q. What do you think when you drive back to Daytona every year?

MARK MARTIN: I try to focus on the positive and the good memories, what a privilege it is, 'cause it's easy to forget that it's a privilege, and to focus on the things that aren't so pleasant.

I try to keep my focus on the privilege that it is, how lucky I am to be able to do this. I am ready.

Q. When were you ready? How long ago?

MARK MARTIN: I've been ready. I wasn't ready for the season to end. I just wanted the points to end.

-source: gm racing

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Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Richard Petty , Danica Patrick