Mark Martin Interview

Martin Speaks Out on Las Vegas LAS VEGAS (Feb. 25, 1998) -- (NOTE: Valvoline Ford driver Mark Martin participated in a national media teleconference on Monday regarding this weekend's inaugural Las Vegas 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at...

Martin Speaks Out on Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Feb. 25, 1998) -- (NOTE: Valvoline Ford driver Mark Martin participated in a national media teleconference on Monday regarding this weekend's inaugural Las Vegas 400 NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The following is an edited transcript of the teleconference:)

HOW DID YOUR TESTING GO AT LAS VEGAS?

"Las Vegas is just an awesome speedway to drive on. I think it's going to be great to race on. I'm real excited about going there. It's a nice track. It's a really exciting place. I had never been to the race track when I went out there in January to test and I became a lot more excited after seeing the facility and driving on it. That place was built for racing."

DOES IT COMPARE TO ANY OTHER SPEEDWAYS?

"It compares as much to Michigan (Speedway in Brooklyn) as it does to Richmond (International Raceway in Virginia) or Phoenix (International Raceway in Arizona). It's just certainly a nice race track. That's the way I would have done it, if I was doing one."

HOW DO YOU LIKE GOING TO NEW TRACKS IN GENERAL?

"It's an opportunity to do better than guys with experience. It seems like new race tracks, we've done real well at adapting to quicker than some race teams, so it's an opportunity to do better or worse than you would normally. And for us, we always look at that as an opportunity to, hopefully, do better."

PART OF YOUR BACKGROUND IN RACING IN LAS VEGAS CAME AT OLD CRAIG ROAD SPEEDWAY. WHAT IS YOUR RECOLLECTION OF THOSE DAYS?

"I was 18 years old when I was out there. That was a far cry from what they've got for a speedway now. That track was an absolutely flat, level quarter-mile. That's the way I remember it anyway. I'm afraid the rain, the water, flowed outward instead of inward at that place."

WHERE ARE YOU NOW AND WHEN WILL YOU GET IN TOWN? "I'm in Daytona and I'll get in probably Wednesday night."

WILL YOUR FAMILY COME OUT?

"Nobody is going to be coming out with me. It's already into that grind. We've been racing four weeks in a row and it's pretty tough."

WILL YOU HAVE ANY TIME TO SEE THE CITY?

"I'm mostly just interested in racing. We do that every week. I'm not as much interested in seeing the sights as I am in competing for a win. That's what it's about for me, anyway."

IS THERE ONE THING THIS LAS VEGAS TRACK HAS THAT OTHERS DON'T? "It's just a nice speedway. I don't have one for you."

WILL WIND BE A PROBLEM?

"No, that won't be any problem. That won't be a major factor."

COMMENT ON THE "FIVE AND FIVE" RULE.

"Well, the faster you go, the more downforce you make, so when you take it away you notice it more the faster you go. If you take 10 percent of 100 pounds of downforce away you lose 10, but if you take 10 percent of 1000 pounds of downforce you lose 100. And you'll notice a loss of 100 more than you will notice a loss of 10, so the faster the tracks are the more you'll notice the five-and-five rule."

AT SOME TRACKS IT WILL BE AN ADVANTAGE AND AT SOME IT WON'T?

"At some tracks it will be a disadvantage, and at some tracks it will be more of a disadvantage. It's taken away downforce no matter what and the faster you go the more you'll notice it."

WHAT'S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MATT KENSETH?

"Matt Kenseth is a superstar in the making and he's well on his way, obviously. He has what it takes and I've believed in Matt for probably well over a year now. I've begged the people at Roush Racing to get him under contract before someone else does and we've done that. And now he won his first Busch race, so that sure makes me feel a lot better than I did a week ago right now. Although, running sixth at Daytona was good. But he's also leading the point standings. He is a tremendous driver and if somebody said, 'Why don't you create from scratch the ultimate race car driver.' That's the one."

DO YOU THINK PART OF HIS SUCCESS IS DUE TO ASA RACING? "I have to say this. Probably everyone wouldn't like him as much as I do, but I like his personality and I appreciate and respect where he's come from and what he's done. I wish that when I was 25 years old somebody could have opened some doors for me. The sport has changed an awful lot now and this sport is hungry for new talent, and he's it. He's the one."

WAS THE RACE AT ROCKINGHAM FUN?

"I think it was a very competitive race and, yes, it was fun for me. We had a better chassis setup this time than we've had there in years and part of that is thanks to Jeff Burton. I enjoyed it. It was a good race. I would have liked to have won the race, but we certainly emerged looking like we had hoped to look when we dreamed up this thing of moving the six car to Mooresville. After Daytona we were feeling pretty sad, but after Rockingham I think everybody feels pretty good. Steve Hmiel and Johnny Benson went to the front and led the race and ran in the top-five all day, and we did, too. So what that says is that we're all going to march on. Steve and Johnny are going to go out and win races, and we are, too."

ARE YOU MORE SETTLED IN AT MOORESVILLE NOW AND DID YESTERDAY GIVE YOU MORE CONFIDENCE? "It's a relief because I know I'm going to have to hear from people from time to time that I shouldn't have done that and I'd rather not. I'd rather not hear that, but I will. I just feel a lot better about it. We made a decision to do something and we're going to do it, and, by the way, it's going to be awesome. Working with Jeff Burton is just a great thing, a great opportunity in my career and it's a great opportunity in his career. Jimmy Fennig, Buddy Parrott, Bobby Hudson and all these guys have broke their backs to make this thing work and, not only did we have a fast enough race car to be a contender at Rockingham, but we had pit stops that were contenders too. Not the fastest there, but we came in leading and went out leading and that made me smile one time. We still have some polishing to do on our deal. Four guys are out of breath from working so hard and we're going to catch up and, hopefully, build a better, bigger, stronger thing as we go."

WHAT'S YOUR IMPRESSION OF JOHNNY BENSON AND HIS RACE TEAM?

"Johnny is with a great race team. He's in my car, so (you've got) to speak with Steve Hmiel and that bunch up there. Johnny's earned the opportunity and deserves it. He's a good fella and he's going to make the most of it."

HAVE YOU SEEN ANY DIFFERENCE WITH A BIGGER TEAM? "No. It doesn't change things as much as you might think. It's something for the media to talk about more than anything else. It makes great business sense and I'm all for building a bigger, stronger operation, but the thing I've noticed most is I'm asked about it more. That's the biggest thing."

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE RATE OF GROWTH IN THIS SPORT AND THE DIRECTION IT'S GOING? "...it's a real exciting time to be a part of NASCAR and I'm excited and honored to be a part of it. I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. This is the greatest time in history to be a part of NASCAR, so there are sacrifices that have to be made along the way... I'm honored to be a part of it and signed up to go wherever they go. The sport didn't get where it is today off of poor leadership. It got there off of brilliant people and people that didn't mind working really hard, so I have a lot of confidence that they're making the right decisions and guiding this sport where it needs to go."

THE NASCAR BUSCH SERIES DRIVERS SAY WE WILL SEE A LOT OF PASSING ANYWHERE ON THIS LAS VEGAS TRACK. DO YOU KNOW WHY THAT IS? "The layout, and I'm not smart enough to tell you exactly. I have a tendency to oversimplify things, but the radius of the turns, the banking of the turns and the way it is shaped makes it not advantageous to run on the bottom or middle or top, where a lot of race tracks it's very advantageous to run a certain place on the race track. It seems like Las Vegas, there's not a real advantage or spot on the race track to run, which is good for competition."

CAN YOU ASSESS YOUR FORD AFTER A COUPLE OF RACES? "It's what I expected. It was off at Daytona, maybe not quite as much as I was afraid it might be. And it was as good as I hoped it would be at Rockingham."

DO YOU STILL FEEL THE TAURUS WILL BE BETTER AT VEGAS THAN ROCKINGHAM? "I don't think it will be better at Vegas than Rockingham. I was just referring to versus a restrictor-plate race. We still have some work to do on the car for restrictor-plate racing. Obviously, Rusty Wallace and those guys just have a little, little bit to do and we have quite a bit more than they do. They did a better job than we did."

BUT IT WON'T BE ANY WORSE THAN ROCKINGHAM OUT HERE? "It shouldn't. It will come down to who has the best setup. Obviously, Jeff Gordon had the best setup at Rockingham and it will come down to the same thing at Vegas like it always does."

COMPARE HOW YOU WERE LOOKING AT THIS SEASON IN JANUARY AND HOW YOU FEEL NOW AFTER TWO RACES? "Well, I guess we've probably ran better at Daytona than I thought we would and we finished a whole lot worse than I thought we would. We ran better at Rockingham than I thought we would and as good as I hoped we might. I don't know what else to say. I didn't spend a lot of time on expectations. I spend most of my time trying to focus on the things that will really give us better performance. It really broke my heart at Daytona. I kept my chin up all through the qualifying and was happy with getting an eighth in the qualifying race and starting 15th in the 500 was good. I was happy with how we were doing on the race track and I was crushed when we left Daytona 38th in the points. But, you've got to just keep going and we come back the next week and we led the most laps and we had a shot to win and got outrun by two cars at the end when it came down to it, so for that I'm real grateful."

DO YOU FEEL BETTER GOING INTO VEGAS AFTER ROCKINGHAM? "You better believe it. I'm pretty excited right now. It's a great race track. We've got great stuff and our team is starting to show signs of being great and of being a real contender and they're only going to get better as we work together more. They're almost all new, so I'm very proud when we can go out and have a weekend like we did at Rockingham."

Source: NASCAR Online

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Mark Martin