MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY MONTE CARLO SS TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT RELIEF EFFORTS FOR VICTIMS OF CENTRAL FLORIDA TORNADOES, HOW TOUGH IT IS TO MAKE THE DAYTONA 500 FIELD, AND SENIOR DRIVERS THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT JAMES HYLTON (AGE...
MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY MONTE CARLO SS TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT RELIEF EFFORTS FOR VICTIMS OF CENTRAL FLORIDA TORNADOES, HOW TOUGH IT IS TO MAKE THE DAYTONA 500 FIELD, AND SENIOR DRIVERS
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT JAMES HYLTON (AGE 72) TRYING TO MAKE THE FIELD FOR THE DAYTONA 500. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO WALK AWAY FROM THIS SPORT AT ANY AGE? "For James Hylton, it's something that he loves and that he wants to do. For most of us, it has been the center of our lives since we were kids. That's not exclusive to a race car driver. Many people have difficulty with retiring - especially if you're talking about retiring from something you love with a passion. And at some point in time, you have to face the fact that you can't compete on that level anymore. But for me, I still might choose to compete - just not on that level. But I don't think this is exclusive. We see it in other kinds of sports and we also see it in all walks of life. I have a love for this sport and I'm spreading my passion out through teaching and mentoring and leading and other things other than just driving. But I'm not finished with driving. That's why I'm so thankful about what Ginn (Racing) has done for me here. They've given me an opportunity to do all these things. I have a passion for that - just like I do for the Daytona 500. I have a love for this sport. I'm a fan first."
DO YOU THINK JAMES HYLTON MIGHT BE MORE READILY EMBRACED AND ACCEPTED HERE IN THE GARAGE GIVEN HIS EXPERIENCE MORE SO THAN A GUY WHO IS HERE FOR THE FIRST TIME? "I'm sorry to say that maybe 30 percent of the field, and certainly there is a little sarcasm in my voice, when I say that many out here don't know who James is. I take great pride in Sterling Marlin and myself and Kenny Schrader and Dale Jarrett and the ones who do know who he is and who have respect for him. There are a lot of and drivers here who don't know James."
AT HIS AGE, ARE THERE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT SAFETY FROM YOU GUYS? "No. Not from me. I certainly wouldn't throw stones. That's only 24 years from now and I'm not going to say nothing (laughs). In 24 years, heck, I plan on loving life just as much then as I do now. I don't see it today, but that's a long time away."
DO YOU SEE YOURSELF OUT HERE DRIVING AT THAT AGE? "No. Do I? No. But I'm not going to say never say never because look at me (laughs). I think it's cool. I also know what challenge he faces today. This field is terrifying. I haven't seen any mania and hype about what an incredible feat it is going to be about what it is going to be make this race this year. That should be the story right now. Wow. I am so concerned for Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek. Sterling has won this race twice. He has the fastest of all our cars, thank goodness. But there are so few spots and so many greats. When it comes right down to this qualifying race, they're willing to try anything - to skip tires and skip pit stops and whatever it is for those two or three little spots that are going to come out of those qualifying races. It's pretty incredible. That was a long story about what he faces to make the show. But it means a lot to an old school guy to see somebody come and try."
WOULD THAT MAKE IT A BIGGER "WOW" FACTOR IF HE WERE TO GET IN THE SHOW? "It would blow everyone away - along with his retirement sponsor (laughs). Yeah, you'd better it! Those gray hairs are standing up loving it, right? Hey-hey...yes sir! So, yeah, it's going to be cool. If he makes it in, I'm going to be standing there cheering for James on Thursday."
ON THE FLORIDA TORNADOES DID YOU HEAR THE TORNADOES? DID IT WAKE YOU UP? "Oh, yes it did. It was 4am - exactly when it came through. It was only out our back gate. The destruction went right across just south of us. I wasn't scared for my sake, but I was very concerned about my airplane, which wasn't in my hanger. It was in Ormand Beach and I didn't know where the storm was. I knew it was a bad storm. But it woke us up. It was loud. It was close."
WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SAW THE DEVASTATION? "It scared me because it woke me up and I laid there and I could see light flashing and I got up and shut the storm shutters to the screened porch. My only concern was my airplane. But I didn't realize it was a tornado. It just looked like a hurricane. I didn't realize it until the next morning.
"I felt so bad for the people that were stuck by this. Once again, it just seems like we've had a lot of it in Central Florida. It looked like a hurricane. I didn't expect it."
ON RAISING MONEY FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE STORM "Both Bobby Ginn and I are residents of Florida. So it means something extra to us to be able to do something to help them out. It makes us feel good. It will not only benefit the victims, but it will make some fans dreams come true with the dream package we have put together for a fan to be able to participate in."
THE DALE EARNHARDT JR. THING IS GETTING A LOT OF PLAY. WILL THE STRESS OF IT GET TO HIM IF HIS CONTRACT ISSUES ARE NOT RESOLVED SOON? "Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the strongest man I know today. Obviously it would be a distraction, but I don't really think it would affect his performance. He's the strongest man I know today."
-credit: gm racing