Loudon II: Mark Martin - Ford interview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, moved from 15th to 8th over the last five races to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Martin spoke about the stretch run late Friday afternoon after it began raining and qualifying was...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, moved from 15th to 8th over the last five races to clinch a spot in the Chase for the Nextel Cup. Martin spoke about the stretch run late Friday afternoon after it began raining and qualifying was cancelled.

MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE TOP 10 GUYS STARTING 1-10 ON SUNDAY?

"I think that's a nice story. That will give you guys plenty to talk about between now and Sunday's race."

YOU FEEL YOU'LL GET ROLLING NEXT WEEK?

"Yeah, we're gonna get rolling next week. Everybody knows that Talladega is fairly much a wild card. I think I have two top fives on restrictor plates. It might be a fifth and a sixth or something like that (actually a pair of sixth-place finishes), but then we blew up at Daytona. So the numbers show that we can be pretty strong at Talladaga. I say, 'Let's be realistic about it and say nobody knows where anybody might finish at Talladega.' That's what I think the truth is. Of all the race tracks, Loudon could possibly be our weakest suit. Obviously, we weren't extra prepared for this race because we played like there wasn't anymore races after Richmond. We had to race like Richmond was the last race of our lives, so we put everything towards that. Whereas, the 48 and 24 both came up here and tested. Both ran good here anyway. They didn't need to test. I don't know why they did that, but, long story short, don't forget that when this thing is over with Sunday it's not over, man. There are nine more to go. There's a lot of racing and a lot of change still. It's not like 36, but you can't put that much stock into just one race."

YOU CAN'T WAIT FOR DOVER.

"I love Dover. I've always run good at Dover. I should have won a lot more races than I have there. We've been really strong there. That's one of my favorite race tracks. And, by the way, I am taking my favorite car. I don't know how you can get any better than favorite, favorite, except my favorite engine and I think they're saving that one for Kansas. Life is good right now for us. To be included means so much and I meant that about the trophy. I've already received the biggest trophy that any man can receive and that's from people that I had to beat - it's not easy to pull for somebody that beats you occasionally or on a regular basis - owners, drivers and all that - but they've shown some support toward me and they did in 2002, but even more this time. It's nice."

DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL MORE OPTIMISTIC?

"It's too early to say. It was incredible what we did the last 10 races. Can we do that for 10 more? Boy, I don't know. It took those 10 to get us in. Now the question is, can we do it 10 more? We went to Richmond and we didn't run that strong and we finished fifth. We can come to New Hampshire and not run that strong and finish fifth. Those are the kinds of things it really takes. When you have a bad day like in Michigan when we had the problem and had to start 30th or something like that and came to second. Well, some days you only get back to 21st. It's just little deals like that that really make the difference, especially when you've only got 10 races in the fold."

WHAT WAS THE NEW YORK TOUR LIKE?

"It was nice to be included. The nice thing about it, really, especially yesterday is that they treated us all equally. In other words, Jeremy, Ryan and myself got almost equal billing to Junior and Jeff Gordon, which is very uncommon. So it was an enjoyable day in that respect and that may be pretty unique. After a couple of races that may not happen again, so I enjoyed that. I enjoyed all of us being treated equally on the hype and the excitement."

YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR A BEANIE ON REGIS AND KELLY. DID KEEP THE YOU CLOTHES YOU MODELED?

"No, I didn't keep it. I didn't love it that much, but I didn't hate it near enough as Matt hated his."

TONY DIDN'T LIKE THE ORANGE SWEATER.

"But Tony looked fine. He was all puffed up about it, but he looked fine in that sweater. I asked him if that was a ladies sweater, but I was messing with him. That really didn't seem to bother him."

WHO HAD THE TOUGHEST TIME WITH THE FASHION.

"Jeremy wouldn't wear it (a sweater). He carried it over his shoulder out there. I didn't look good at all, but I didn't look bad so I was real impressed. When I got my stuff on I looked and said, 'Man, that's not bad. I'm OK.' Then Jeremy was whining and he got the coordinator and she said, 'Why don't you trade with Jeremy? Jeremy can wear yours.' I said, 'No, I look good.'(laughing)" WILL TEAMS GAMBLE WITH TWO-TIRE STOPS OR FUEL MILEAGE THESE LAST 10 RACES OR WILL IT DEPEND ON THE SITUATION?

"Every team weighs those situations every race and different circumstances create different decisions. In the final 10 you will see the same kind of decisions that have been made to get them in the top 10. Maybe some of the guys that aren't in will say, 'Ah, it's not gonna matter to run 11th today, so we'll roll the dice and hope for a top five and if we finish 25th it's no big loss.' You're not gonna get that out of the top 10, but you didn't get that anyway. Most of the top 10 don't race that way. They race on more surer bets than that."

AS THE RACES WIND DOWN, HOWEVER, IF YOU FALL BEHIND YOU MIGHT HAVE TO TAKE MORE CHANCES, RIGHT?

"You can. You could if you were behind and you thought that you didn't have anything to lose, but if you're that far behind, one top five won't make a difference anyway. It might get you a win, but if you get so far behind that it doesn't matter if you finish bad, then winning's not gonna get you back in the hunt either."

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE WAY NON-CHASERS WILL RACE YOU GUYS?

"No, I don't. Absolutely not. The worse case scenario would be that people drive like they drive in the all-star race and that's not that bad (laughing). Or like they drove at Richmond, which is not that bad. It's bad but not that bad (laughing). I think we can live with it. I really think that everybody is as aggressive as they feel comfortable. I think everyone's aggression level is usually at their max comfort level all the time. I know mine is."

HOW MUCH IS PATIENCE AND SAVVY GOING TO COME INTO PLAY THESE LAST 10 RACES COMPARED TO LAST YEAR?

"That's a good question and it's a tough question to answer because if I give you the answer you might like to hear, which is, 'It's very important,' but I don't have the rest of the tools to work with, then it doesn't help enough. But if you've got equal tools and have an equal opportunity, then it could make a considerable difference. But the biggest variable is the tools that are in your hands to work with. If your car is just not up for the performance, then all the smart savvy in the world won't carry you far enough. It can help you, but it just can't fix that."

SO DOES IT COME INTO PLAY WHEN YOU HAVE A 15TH-PLACE CAR AND YOU REALIZE YOU HAVE TO FINISH 15TH WITH IT?

"Yes, it is very, very important. We had to race that way last week. We had a 15th-place car and we finished fifth with it because we just raced as hard as we could go and the breaks fell our way. By the way, when I started to spin around, I did everything I could to do a 360 instead of just getting stopped. I tried to do a 360 and keep going. That was a brilliant race. You guys probably didn't realize watching it that the performance was off on that car as much as we did. Pat knew and I knew that we weren't as good as we needed to be and we raced hard all night."

YOU WOULDN'T HAVE NORMALLY DONE A 360? WOULD YOU HAVE JUST TRIED TO SAVE THE CAR ITSELF?

"My first thought about it was, 'If I can get this thing all the way around and keep it rolling face forward, that's my least chance of getting tore up here.' That's really what I focused on. You can always focus on that, but before it ever went around I was thinking. Instead of thinking, 'Oh, Lord I'm going around.' I didn't think that. I thought, 'What can I do here to escape unscathed.'"

OUT OF THE LAST 10 RACES, WHICH IS GOING TO BE THE TOUGHEST FOR YOU?

"I tell you, the toughest race for all of us will be Talladega. I believe we have two top fives. If not, a fifth and a sixth or something and a blow up (a pair of sixth-place finishes). So we have a good record on restrictor plates, although we're not probably stout enough to go win. We don't have the car to win with, but we've got a car we can draft around with and do OK. But you don't finish where you run there anyway. Sometimes you finish better and sometimes you finish worse. That's the biggest wild card and the wrecks at Talladega, so the biggest wild card is there. Once we get this one behind us, we're gonna start getting more ready. For us, we didn't make serious plans for the last 10. We made serious plans through Richmond because it didn't look like we were gonna make it, to me, for a long time."

SO YOU'RE GOING RACE TO RACE?

"Yeah. We're really gonna start gaining momentum after this race. For this race we've got the car from Richmond, a brand new car. It turned fast lap times at Richmond. It turned reasonable lap times here. It's the best that we have. We've got our best stuff, but we are not as loaded as the 24 and the 48. They already were good up here and then they came and tested on top of that, so there are some guys that are more ready. The 19 brought their stuff from Richmond and it's still real fast here. So there are some guys that are real strong here, but that's one race. I know there are some races I can outrun those guys in the last 10, so whatever happens this race - the thing we've got to do is not break, blow up and wreck. We can't blow it up. We can't break it and we can't wreck it. Beyond that, whatever we get is what we get and it really will be OK because we'll go start our charge next week at a race track where we can go and maybe show out like some of these guys might show their flash this week. It's 10 races and I know for a fact that we can contend to win half - half of them and that's a lot. Half is a lot and before we ever made the chase, I believed that we could win some races in the last 10 based on where we go; how much I love Dover; how much I love Charlotte; how much I love Atlanta; how much I like Darlington; how we ran at Chicago and Kansas is just about like Chicago. It looks good. I've run good in the past at Phoenix, so we could go out there and run good or not, but I have confidence that we can go and hold our own at Phoenix. We have three killer race cars sitting in the shop, which is more than I've had since 1998 - race cars that I really like. We're ready."

DO YOU THINK THE CHAMPIONSHIP WILL COME DOWN TO HOMESTEAD?

"I think it will. That's my prediction and I don't do them very often, but I'd really be surprised if it didn't. It's tighter than a 36-race race. A 10-race race, it would almost have to come down to the end."

IS THIS YOUR BEST TEAM?

"Over the last 10 races, I would say yes. Let's see what the next 10 is gonna say."

IS THERE ANY ONE THING YOU HAVE THAT THE OTHER NINE GUYS DON'T?

"Yes, but I really wish you wouldn't make me tell you what it is (laughing). It's my favorite car. I loaned it to Jeff Burton and I asked every five laps, 'Is the 99 OK?' When every caution came out, 'How's the 99?'"

WHEN WAS THAT RACE?

"It was the first Michigan race. We let him run it up there and I was sick to my stomach. We had two or three cautions at the end and I almost got on the radio and said, 'Please Jeff, take it easy.' That's the car we ran at the second California race, the second Michigan, Chicago, Indy - that baby's a winner. And then I've got the car that I won Dover with, which is actually my number three favorite car right now. So I've got another one in between it and my favorite. I've got enough cars to do this deal."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Mark Martin