MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM IMPALA met with media and discussed restrictor plate changes, the importance of the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip stepping out of the car, and more. TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY'S BIG RACE, THE DAYTONA ...
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM IMPALA met with media and discussed restrictor plate changes, the importance of the Daytona 500, Michael Waltrip stepping out of the car, and more.
TALK ABOUT YOUR OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY'S BIG RACE, THE DAYTONA 500
"Oh, it's very good. I'm excited about the Daytona 500. I'm excited about how the cars are handling and the challenge that the handling is presenting itself and I think it's exciting to have Dale Earnhardt Jr. and to Chevys out of the same shop on the front row and let's go do this thing."
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD MODIFY THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED RULES?
"No, I don't. At this level, I feel that we have to try to hold on to some sort of integrity. And for me, it gets a little bit like a circus. But I see what you're saying. I expect that is coming. But you asked my opinion. I expect that."
WITH THE CHANGE IN THE RESTRICTOR PLATE, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN IN PRACTICE AND THE SHOOTOUT AND HOW DO YOU THINK THAT WILL AFFECT RACING IN THE DAYTONA 500?
"I think it's really conducive to exciting racing. The cars get big runs; bigger than I recall last year and they're a little bit more of a handful when you get them down in the corner which brings a little bit more racing into it. And so, I think you're in for some action. And I can't wait. The race is during the day. The track will be slicker than it was for the Shootout, and it was slick during the Shootout so I expect it to be even slicker, which is a good thing. It's good for racing and puts on a great show and tremendous challenge for the teams."
ON WHAT IT WOULD MEAN TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 AND WHAT HAS KEPT HIM FROM WINNING IT SO FAR
"I never had the fastest car for the Daytona 500 (laughs). And it's a shame because back in the day, the fastest car usually had a great shot at winning. And it doesn't have a better than average shot today with the way things are. But back in the day, if you brought down a car that could sit on the pole, you also had a very good shot at winning. Now it doesn't matter that much. I wanted to be the youngest and I didn't manage to set that record. So I'll take what I can get. I'm really proud to have two Hendrick Chevys out of the same shop up there and this is a good time to get 'er done. So, I'm going into it without looking at expectations. I'm just going into it with enthusiasm and excitement knowing that I have a race team that can do it. And we will go out there and we'll see how it shakes out.
"Have you seen that trophy? It would definitely be the biggest trophy I have. And I've got a lot of them, but I don't have anything like that. So certainly the crown jewel of stock car racing would be a big trophy."
LAST YEAR, YOU LEFT HERE AND HAD THREE REALLY FLUKE BAD RACES IN A ROW, TWO MECHANICAL FAILURES AND THE TIRE BLOWING UP. HOW MUCH LESS PRESSURE IS THERE ON YOU THIS YEAR IF YOU JUST GET THROUGH THE FIRST FEW RACES WITHOUT ANY ISSUES? WILL THAT SET THE TONE FOR THE SEASON?
"Yeah, but I can't expect that (laughs). That's asking a lot. There is a lot less pressure because a year ago right now I didn't know how we might perform. We might have failed miserably and so I didn't know. And we weren't running as good as we would have liked to have at California. But we were running fourth in Vegas and Atlanta, so we were starting to see what we could do. But now we know what we can do. So in a lot of ways, there is less pressure an anxiety in that I think (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and I are much more comfortable with those kinds of things and are able to focus really on things that will make us race better."
ON MENTORING MATT KENSETH
"I did very little mentoring. He's a real prize guy and has been a very good friend and I was happy to see him bring a championship home and that meant a lot to me to see Jack (Roush) get one. And he's had tremendous integrity all through and is one of two of my very, very close friends in the sport."
WHO IS THE OTHER ONE?
MICHAEL WALTRIP IS GETTING READY TO STEP OUT OF THE CAR. CAN YOU RELATE TO WHAT HE'S GOING THROUGH AND HOW THAT MIGHT DIFFER FROM YOUR SITUATION?
"I know that he wishes that it wasn't; that he wasn't faced with that. But it was a decision. I shouldn't even have to tell you this. He made the decision for the race team to step out to try to continue to elevate that race team's performance. And that had to be the hardest decision in the world because he didn't lose his ride. He gave it up for the better of the company. And so that's hard enough. It's hard enough to get squeezed out, but it even takes a bigger man to say, 'Let me get somebody in here and let me continue to elevate this company that I'm trying to build.' So, I respect that."
WHERE ARE THE AREAS YOU THINK YOUR TEAM WILL NEED TO MAKE SOME IMPROVEMENTS FOR THIS SEASON?
"There is no area that we were weak in or had a deficit. Our race team was phenomenal all year long. What we have done is focused on every area and every aspect of it and tried to strengthen each one of them just a little bit because we didn't really have any weaknesses or places where we could make significant improvement. So we just have to make small improvements, very small improvements, in every area."
YOU CAME UP IN AN ERA WHEN THEY DIDN'T NEED TO SAY, 'HAVE AT IT, BOYS', BECAUSE THAT'S HOW THE SPORT WAS RUN. NASCAR IS TRYING TO GO BACK TO THAT AGAIN. HOW DO YOU VIEW IT?
"It hasn't made a big impression on me. It doesn't affect me very much unless someone else reacts differently than they have in the past. It doesn't affect me and what I do no matter what they do. So it could have an effect on me based on how one of the young boys might react.
IS THAT YOUR BIGGEST CONCERN?
"I'm not concerned. I'm certainly not concerned in the race car. I think we can handle our business just fine. I would be more concerned for one of them if they chose to do something differently outside the race car."
-source: gm racing