Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, will start on the pole for tomorrow's Food City 500. After his pole-winning press conference, Martin hung around and answered a variety of questions surrounding his team's start. MARK ...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, will start on the pole for tomorrow's Food City 500. After his pole-winning press conference, Martin hung around and answered a variety of questions surrounding his team's start.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus --
YOU'VE BEEN PRETTY QUIET THIS YEAR IN REGARDS TO THE RULES SITUATION AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE TRACKS AND DALE EARNHARDT. WHY?
"I wasn't really running good enough to run my mouth for a lot of reasons. Where Earnhardt is concerned, I was just devastated. I didn't have anything to say. I was grieving in my own quiet way. The safety issues have been over-dramatized and over-magnified and I didn't want to get into that. The only way I was gonna get into that would have been to defend some of the bashing that was going on towards NASCAR. I've seen all this stuff going on and I didn't really have a whole lot to say about it. My stands have been on the quiet side or the conservative side on most of those things, except for the fact I'm extremely disappointed with the Talladega rules. I think most of the drivers expected a change for that race. I would certainly like to see a little bit more boring race -- a little bit less TV rating and ticket sales and a little bit more boring race."
DO YOU THINK SOME OF THIS QUIETNESS IS THE REASON THESE RUMORS OF DISCONTENT STARTED WITH YOUR TEAM?
"I think that's speculation. I don't even recall being as frustrated with my team this year as usual because I get frustrated whenever it doesn't go good no matter what. If we're running first and we wind up finishing third, I get mad. That's the way I am even when it's going good, so I don't know. I think it's been speculation. We've never had a team problem, a people problem. We haven't had a performance problem, although we haven't run as good. In the second half of the year last year, we went to Dover and ran good enough to contend to win. We went to Bristol and ran good enough to contend to win and got beat off pit road. I would have liked to have seen them pass us because we led the race and we were strong. We finished third but they (Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart) both passed us on pit road. We went to Darlington in September and we led the race and led and led and led and we had trouble in the pits. We ran at Vegas (this season) and didn't lead that many laps but we led more than anybody else. We came in first and went out eighth -- something like that -- and we weren't strong enough to drive from eighth to first. We were strong, but not that strong, so there have been glimpses. It's not that bad. Yeah, we ran like junk at Darlington, but I'm just explaining to you that we are not junk or bottom of the barrel. We're wherever we are in the points, not because we've run that bad, it's because we wrecked at Daytona, we broke an engine, we had a horrible day in the pits at Rockingham and then we had a great day in the pits at Darlington and ran bad. So when you tie it all together, it's been something different all the time. I doubt if Bobby Labonte, the way he's gotten started off this year, is gonna be able to go out and dominate the championship this year. Somebody else is gonna have that golden year and that's just the sport. I don't have any idea why -- other than people just assume that when you're not running good things are going bad. We're not running as good as we want to and we're having bad things happen to us. We broke stuff last fall that nobody had ever broke. The shift rod at Dover. We have to finish the race in high gear -- do a green flag pit stop leaving it in fourth gear when we had a car that could contend to win. The rod broke in half. The mandrel broke off the front of the motor at Atlanta in November. That's never happened. That's the same mandrel we've been running forever. We broke a piston at Atlanta this year with not much different of a piston than we've been running -- not more RPMs, maybe a little more horsepower than we used to run. Sometimes those little things where you had enough margin takes some of that out when you step it up and start running these cars faster and harder. It's like when the right-front tires start blowing out. We ran the same tire at certain race tracks forever and they didn't start blowing out and then all of a sudden you start having tires fail at Richmond or something like that. It's like, 'Where did this come from? We never used to have that.' But the cars run a little faster now, so things change."
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY CHANGES IN YOUR CREW?
"No. We have a different tire changer on the right-front, but everyone else is the same. We had great pit stops at Darlington, we just didn't hit the setup. We didn't test there. In the morning practice we had the fastest time and we had the best long run time with last fall's setup. I thought, 'Man, we're in business. This looks good.' And then in happy hour it didn't work. We couldn't get it and we had to abandon it at the last minute and what did we do, we just rolled up in there some old stuff for springs -- not a setup that we had fine-tuned and had been working on. We abandoned what had worked in the morning and what had worked last fall because it wasn't working that afternoon, so we missed the setup it. That can happen."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE FRUSTRATION LIKE THAT?
"I don't know. It's been real humbling for me. I know that I try as hard as I can. I know the people around me are working and trying. I try to accept the results and expect 100 percent on the effort side."