MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY MONTE CARLO SS, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT RUNNING A PART-TIME SCHEDULE, THE LAS VEGAS TRACK SURFACE AND MORE: ARE YOU HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR CAREER MOVE? "Absolutely not. I am so happy. I'm in a great place...
MARK MARTIN, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY MONTE CARLO SS, TALKS WITH MEDIA ABOUT RUNNING A PART-TIME SCHEDULE, THE LAS VEGAS TRACK SURFACE AND MORE:
ARE YOU HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT YOUR CAREER MOVE? "Absolutely not. I am so happy. I'm in a great place in my life; with my family, my career and everything else and I haven't had a change in heart and don't expect to. I'm pretty committed. I made a commitment to myself. I probably shouldn't need to go through this again but when I first got started with Jack Roush in 1988, if I recall correctly there was 31 races. The schedule has expanded to 38 and after doing that for 20 years, I'm ready for a break this year. That's not to say if 29 or 30 or 31 was the number; I could probably deal with that. I chased that Cup for nearly 20 years and at this point in time I've put chasing that thing behind me.
"I'm very comfortable with what I've got going on and I appreciate. I especially appreciate about October, at Talladega when we had that press conference I was pretty sure that none of you guys were ever going to talk to me again. I guess things are working out okay so I guess we're all good."
WILL THIS ALLOW YOU TO SPEND A LITTLE MORE TIME WITH YOUR SON'S RACING? "You know, it's not about racing. Matt's been racing without me and there were times when that was agonizing for me but there's also times that are agonizing for me when he is going to a paintball tournament or anything else. It's more about claiming a portion of my life that I haven't been able to have since I was 15. I made a commitment to go racing and I haven't done much else outside of that along the way. I will get to go racing with Matt some and Ricky Carmichael, which is also exciting for me and part of my role with Ginn Racing. But it's not about his racing, because I don't know that we know if that's what he's going to do with his life. But I do think it's important for me to spend more time around him and around my wife; just a little bit more. It doesn't have to be 24-7 and I need to give some more there. I am very interested in spending a little extra time with the fans who have helped me build this career. That's become more important to me and do a few extra things, maybe for my sponsors and the people who support the sport so much and maybe take my focus off the scoring each and every point that I possible can and agonizing over if this part breaks or if this guy wrecks in front of me and I can't miss him or whatever.
"If you're not chasing for the points and that happens you can shake that off and go home. For me, when I had those kinds of things happen for the last 19 years, I went home and laid in bed all night awake going over it in my head. So you know what, my plan - going back to Monte's question - one of the things that I was going to say was I'm going to sit back this year and watch Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards get as many grey hairs as I have. Because they've got their work cut out for them and even thought they expanded the Chase it's still a competitive field and there's a lot of things that happen on the race track that you can't control."
SPEAKING OF RICKY CARMICHAEL, HOW IS HE COMING ALONG? "Well, first of all, I want to speak on Regan (Smith). I am very, very excited about working with Regan and I think he's going to do a fabulous job; I think he's going to surprise some people and he's a really fine young man. Ricky has only tested once so far and in our late-model and he's tested in the Ginn late-model one time so far, but he was in the shop yesterday fitting his seat. His first race will be March 24th in one of my late-models and what we're going to do is graduate him through our program as quick as we can to the ARCA, Truck and Busch programs.
"You have to understand; this is going to take a little more time than someone with a race car background. He's incredibly talented, has a work ethic that's second to none, great attitude, humble young man. Fun to work with. He's gone fast in the car already, right away. I think it's going to be fun this first race. He's going to get to race against Matt. That's why I have such a hard time saying never say never, I think you all have asked me if I want to be a car owner, I've said 'no, never.' I guess I meant Nextel Cup. Surely I won't lose my mind and do that. I am going to be running a two-car team this year with Ricky Carmichael, Matt Bowers and Matt Martin running late-models in Florida."
I GUESS HAVING THE PROBLEM OF BEING ASKED TO RACE MORE IF YOU'RE DOING WELL IS A GOOD PROBLEM TO HAVE. "It is. It's great that we've done so well. I was serious when I said I didn't know if we were going to be able to get any coverage or not with this limited schedule idea that we threw at you guys in October.
"It didn't seem like it was met with the warmest welcome. I'm very proud of this U.S. Army team and Ryan Pemberton and Jay Frye and the commitment that Bobby Ginn has made to this team and all the people who work there. Because they have done really well in the past and maybe not gotten noticed quite as much for it but certainly they have gotten the attention they deserve these last couple of weeks. I'm proud for them and proud to be a part of their organization."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE RENOVATED LAS VEGAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY? "The garage is beautiful. Really, really neat. The race track is going to be a challenge and the greatest thing that we can hope for is the brutal summers in Las Vegas will weather this asphalt really quickly and take some of this edge off it. It's a real challenge for the teams and Goodyear to handle the speed that it's producing and the loads that it's putting on the tires. It's going to make things difficult for the teams this weekend."
DID YOU WATCH THE BUSCH RACE AND IF SO, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF MONTOYA'S FIRST NASCAR WIN? "Did I watch it, absolutely. I practiced for my Bristol weekend this Sunday. I sure did. We had a big barbeque, big cookout, the friends all together and watched it on TV. I knew that Juan Montoya was one of the greatest drivers in the world but boy, did he show everybody on Sunday. In reference to the end of the race and the incident that he and (Scott) Pruett had, it was an unfortunate incident. It was not something that needed to take place for him to win the race. It certainly doesn't discredit the win, by any means. He certainly put on a driving clinic for everyone out there and that was awesome. I think in retrospect, Juan, with five laps to go, had him covered pretty good and got himself in a situation where he couldn't get out of. When Scott went wide to turn into the corner which is how you do, instead of protecting the line, because Juan was so far back, I know that Scott didn't think Juan would get down there inside of him. And Juan didn't thing that Scott wouldn't know he was coming. But he certainly could have made that pass clean next time by and I bet he will next time. It was one of those racing situations and I think the thing that was most important in that for Juan was that it didn't need to take place for him to get the win. He put a whuppin on him."
CAN YOU DETAIL ON THE TRACK WHERE YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED BUMPS? "It's real bumpy in turn one. Real bumpy. I don't know that I've ever seen a new paved race track be that wavy and with the speeds that we are running and the setups that we run, it poses a challenge to us."
HOW IS IT WAVY? "Well, it's wavy on the bottom and I'm scared to go up top but when I accidentally stumbled up there it seemed to be wavy for me there too. I certainly don't know. You'll need to check with Kasey Kahne and Michael Waltrip; they'll be riding up there as soon as the track opens and I'm sure they can tell you. But I'm not going up there unless I stumble."
IS THE REST OF THE TRACK PRETTY SMOOTH? "Yes, the rest of it's okay. I think most of the troubles are with the entry of turn one and around turn two."
IS THERE ANY WAY YOU WOULD CONSIDER RUNNING RACES THAT YOU WERE PLANNING TO SKIP? "The things that came up before was I was working with a group that might put pressure on me to do things that I might not want to do. I'm not working with a group that is going to do that. I had help in my indecision, number one. Number two, I could run the first 23 but the only problem is I don't want to run Bristol or Martinsville or Talladega or Loudon or the two road courses. That being said, that leaves 28 races and I'm at 23. Would I add to 28, yeah, but what purpose would that serve? Same is what purpose would it serve if I ran the first 23 and took the rest of the year off. I could do that but at 23 that's as far as I might want to go or 28 or whatever. So I don't see any real purpose in that. Because I don't want to run for the championship. I don't want to race for points. In 2007, I'm taking a break. I'll know more about what I want to do after Bristol. If I feel after Bristol how I feel after Mexico last week then I don't know.
"But if I feel sick that I missed the race or if I feel sick during the race that I wish I was there, which I doubt very seriously, then my life might change. I might change my mind. But right now, I've really spilled it. I've named exactly the races that I don't want to do. When I laid out my schedule, I left out some gravy races; some that I would like to do, off the schedule so that Regan could do some in hopes of preparing him for a full-time ride in Cup in 2008. Some races like. the California race I would love to do; I don't particularly like the time that they start that race - five o'clock or whatever it is on Sunday.
"There are a few other races, the Poconos and stuff like that I'd like to do but I just did that because I've come up with a limited number. I was asked by the ESPN guys earlier this week 'is there anything that anyone can do to get you to run a full schedule' and it's like, I don't want to. I don't know what to say. That's where I am on that right now and I don't expect that to change. We've had a little bit of fun going along here but I just don't see that changing. If we can win this race and we could win next week both, I think it would be the coolest thing to continue on with my plan. It think it would be cool. I don't expect to win both but I certainly would like to win one.
SINCE THE TRACK IS ROUGH, IS IT REALLY IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO QUALIFY UP FRONT TODAY TO GET AHEAD OF WHATEVER MAY HAPPEN IN THE FIRST FEW LAPS? "It is pretty important but it doesn't mean everything. Some of the guys that won't qualify well will certainly not get caught in wrecks and will be able to pull some kind of out of the box pit strategy and get up front. But that's part of the whole frustration of this situation with the tire, with the track, with the fuel cell is that you're going to have that. You'll have people that will do gas only that aren't the best cars and are going to get up in the front. The cars that are really good are going to have to try and fight their way through those guys that are going to try not to give room on the race track. It gets kind of wild out there.
We have the same type of situation at Charlotte, at Lowe's and everybody will make the best of it. The ideal situation would be to qualify up front and never get behind very many cars but that certainly won't happen. Hopefully with these fuel cells, and NASCAR's made a tremendous effort to help us with the situation, and Goodyear has done far beyond. I think the only thing that they could have done is just make stainless steel tires. Tires out of stainless. Besides that I don't know what else they could do to help us. They've done everything that they could do."
IS IT THE LOAD? "I think it's a load. I think in the old days it was heat, a temperature issue. I think it's just the incredible load. the load that's produced by the weight of the car and the amount of the banking and the amount of grip that you can get puts enormous load on the tires, much more so than if you had less grip. I couldn't get over it. They told me the minimum recommended air pressure - and I was laughing - was qualifying air pressure. What are we going to do for qualifying? It's incredible. 62 pounds of air. We used to run 42, 38 pounds of air on the old race track in the old days, in '98. We probably ran 37 or 38 pounds of air in the right-front tire here. Now we've got 62. And it still has enormous grip so it's incredible the amount of load that's being produced there."
DO YOU HAVE MIXED EMOTIONS WHEN YOU RACE AGAINST THE NO. 6 CAR? "Well, I haven't yet, but Jeff Burton told me to expect to. No. You know, from behind the wheel, I almost don't know the difference because the view is all the same. And the guys with the U.S. Army team have really given me great cars this year, certainly cars that were comparable to the No. 6 car really in its best days. But where David Reagan and the No. 6 car is concerned, I certainly feel that I'm a piece of that car and that car's a piece of me. I couldn't be more proud of David Reagan as a person and as a driver representing the No. 6 car and he will do that well. I think a lot about Jack Roush. I woke up at three o'clock this morning because that's what time I was supposed to get up on the east coast and I laid there and thought of a lot of things. Jack Roush was one of those that I thought about. About his airplane and his flying and stuff. We're still very close but we've kind of moved on to another chapter."
-credit: gm racing