KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (Oct. 2, 2013) – By the time the calendar is flipped to the month of October, the sports world is humming. The NFL season is in full swing. Pre-season NBA games are ready for tip off. The first puck is dropped in hockey. Major League Baseball teams are battling it out for their respective pennants, angling for a spot in the World Series. And the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is on.
While it’s a good time to be on the precipice, or the beginning, of a sojourn for a championship, one doesn’t need to be in the hunt for a title to enjoy the fruits of October.
Mark Martin, driving in relief of the injured Tony Stewart, may not be hunting for a championship, but he is hungry for wins. The driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) goes into this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City as one of just 10 different drivers to have enjoyed the sweet taste of victory at the 1.5-mile track since its debut on the Sprint Cup tour in 2001.
The track’s fifth Sprint Cup races proved to be the charm for Martin, who in 2005 stormed through the field from his 19th-place starting spot to take the lead on lap 122. He went on to lead a race-high 139 laps and held off a hard-charging Greg Biffle to secure the 35th of his 40 career Sprint Cup victories. While the win is the highlight of his Kansas career, Martin also owns a pole, two top-five and six top-10 finishes. He has an average start of 15.9, an average finish of 14.9 and has led laps in five of the 15 races run at Kansas for a total of 212 laps led. Additionally, he has completed a solid 3,921 laps of the 3,953 run at Kansas for a lap completion rate of 99.2 percent.
Martin is one of just nine drivers who have competed in each Sprint Cup race at Kansas, putting him in elite company. It’s appropriate considering Martin is representing an elite company in Bass Pro Shops.
Founded by John L. Morris in eight-feet of space in his dad’s liquor store in the early 1970s, Bass Pro Shops today is one of America’s premier outdoor retailers. With locations across America and Canada, Bass Pro Shops serves more than 75 million sportsmen a year with what can only be considered a cornucopia of merchandise for those interested in activities such as camping, fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreational activities, many of which are just as popular as the stick and ball sports that permeate the month of October. And it’s all managed at company headquarters in Springfield, Missouri – a mere two hours from the site of this weekend’s NASCAR festivities, making it a bit of a home game for Martin and the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats team. And with home field advantage secured, Martin is hunting for an October win.
MARK MARTIN, Interim Driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing:
What are your thoughts about going back to Kansas this weekend?
“Kansas has a fairly new resurfacing job that they did recently and it’s a really nice paving job. It’s really smooth. It’s a little bit tricky because the tire we run to withstand the speed we have on that new pavement has pretty good grip, but it is so hard that if it starts to slide, it’s hard to recover from once it starts sliding. So, it’s a little bit tricky. But, you know, it’s pretty uneventful. Right now, the groove is two cars wide and the more we race on it the more the upper lane may come in. I’m hoping that it will come in more this time than last time and each time we race there it will open up a little bit.”
Explain a lap around Kansas.
“It’s pretty straightforward. It’s smooth, and right on the bottom of the racetrack, right on the white line, is the way around it. It’s got a big, sweeping front straightaway and the back straightaway is pretty straight, so that means that turn four opens up a lot because you don’t have to turn down straight. You can sweep out with that straightaway and then the entry to (turn) one is opened up, but the exit of (turn) two is tight because of the straight back straightaway. So it makes all of the turns – all four of them – a little bit different, which is cool. And the biggest challenge there now is just to get your car stuck to the racetrack harder than the next guy – no bumps to deal with or other major issues. It’s just making your car grip the racetrack.”
You’ve run all of the races run at Kansas since it was added to the schedule in 2001. How surprising was it to see how much the track changed during the course of the first several years?
“It is amazing how rough it got and how wore out the pavement got before the repave. It was amazing and it got really pretty rough and just a tough, tough place to try to get a hold of. The new pavement is an amazing job, and I think it’s going to last. They’ve learned a lot in the technology of asphalt mixes, and this one won’t deteriorate like the first paving job.”
In regard to the tire for this weekend, is there anything applicable from what you learned about it in Atlanta?
“I don’t think so. I think it’s going to be an animal of its own. I think you should be able to use a lot of your setup logic from Michigan to apply because of the paving and the smoothness. Even though they’re shaped differently, I think that a lot of the loading and a lot of the characteristics will be very similar. So, I think you need to look at your notes from what you did at Michigan.”
You put on a pretty dominating performance when you won at Kansas in 2005. What do you remember most about that day?
“I remember (Greg) Biffle being behind me and me feeling like I had better stay on my marks and keep it going because he was trying to come after me. I remember that being pretty intense. It was a cool win though. It’s a cool place for me to race because I did race a lot in Springfield, Missouri and over there at I-70 Speedway back in the day when I was coming up as a kid, and it seems like there are a few fans that remember that and those that I’m able to come across are very excited to see me where I am today and be able to get a chance to say that they saw me race when I was a kid.”