MARK MARTIN, NO. 25 FARMER’S INSURANCE/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET met with media and discussed past Sprint All-Star events, strategies, the upcoming race at Kansas and more.
ON THE ALL-STAR “I’ve said many times, in my opinion; this is the coolest venue in the world. I’ve always loved this race track. I think it’s a great facility. The track is great to race on. It represents our sport well. And I love the fans here and their enthusiasm. So it’s great that we race here and it’s really great to have the Sprint All-Star race here. There is no better place for it.”
MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND IS A BIG WEEKEND FOR AUTO RACING WITH THE INDY 500 AND THE COCA-COLA 600. THE AVERAGE FAN CAN GOT OUT AND HIT A GOLF BALL OR HIT A SOFTBALL, BUT THEY CAN’T DRIVE A RACE CAR. HOW DIFFICULT IS THAT, FOR 600 MILES? “Well, I’m an average fan and I can’t go out and hit a golf ball (laughs). It would be harder for me to hit a golf ball than it would be to drive a race car. There’s a physical aspect to what we do that is not really common knowledge, just like the aspect to golf or drag racing or anything else that I don’t necessarily acknowledge because I have no great interest in that so I don’t look at it and analyze it that close. But I think that anything you do on a professional level that the Indy 500 is or the Coca-Cola 600, anything you do on a level like that is extremely intense, physically and mentally, in different ways. For the folks that aren’t interested I’m just like them about other sports.
“And for the ones that are, most of them realize that if they’ve ever done the Petty Driving Experience or anything else, they always say they have a whole new appreciation for what you guys do. They don’t realize that, that last three seconds, which doesn’t sound like much, but when you go from running 35 seconds around this place to 32 seconds, that’s where it’s all at. A 35 second lap around here is like absolutely nothing compared to a 32-second lap. It may get really, really, really fast and run a 35-second lap they think they’ve set a world speeding record. It’s just all relative. It’s what you encounter when you compete on this level. It’s intense, physically and mentally.”
HOW MUCH OF AN APPRECIATION DO DRIVERS HAVE FOR THE SACRIFICES THAT FANS ARE MAKING TO BE HERE IN A TOUGH ECONOMY? “Well, we love the fan which is why we’re able to race on this level. And for most all of us, we came up through the ranks where there might be 1000 or 1500 fans in the stands on a given night of racing. When you start having 150,000 fans at a race, it’s pretty overwhelming for us to really comprehend how you can reach out and tough so many people. The fans are what drives this sport. We’re all grateful for their loyalty.”
WHERE DO YOUR ALL-STAR VICTORIES RANK WITH YOUR CAREER ACHIEVEMENT, AND HOW BIG WERE THEY FOR YOU? “I don’t have a good way to rank those things, other than which ones do you remember. I vividly remember both those All Star wins. I only have a small handful of wins that I vividly remember. None which are any more clear to me than those two wins. Both of them were dramatic in some fashion.
“Jeff Gordon ran out of gas on the last lap. I had no idea I was going to win the race until I won it, which was really fun and exciting. That’s the coolest way to win a race. And then a 2005 win with the red, white, and blue paint on it was really a major throwback and it was at the point in my career when I was afraid that I wouldn’t ever see another checkered flag. And to go out and earn that one the way we earned it flat-out, a lot of times I feel like my car wins my race for me, and I had a good car that night. But I feel like I made a real solid contribution to being able to pull that one off. I was very lucky. Every single move I made all night was the right move. And that never happens (laughs). I’m lucky to get 50/50 usually, so that was a real special night.”
YOU HAVEN’T EXACTLY BEEN LIGHTING IT ON FIRE THIS YEAR, BUT HOW CLOSE DO YOU THINK YOU AND YOUR TEAM ARE TO BREAKING THROUGH AND GETTING CONSISTENT FINISHES AND COMPETING FOR A WIN? “I don’t really know. I don’t know. We had a really fast car at Dover and a really fast car at Richmond and at California. We had a really fast car at Martinsville, but Dover is the only place that we wound up getting a really great finish. So it hasn’t been a matter of having a slow race car, although we do need to pick it up some more. We would like to pick it up some more. It would make things a little bit easier. But we’ve found ourselves at the tail end of the lead lap a lot this year with a car that could do what we did at the end of Dover. And so unfortunately we finished 12th to 18th with cars at times that could have pulled off a top five under the right circumstances; or a top 10 under a little bit better circumstances than what we might have had. It’s hard for me to predict what the rest of the season will bring but the effort is fantastic. We have a great team; a strong team. And at least we’re not dealing with really slow race cars that we don’t know how to get going. We’re working hard to improve but I am very encouraged by the performance of the cars.”
... we race all-out all the time. It’s hard to try harder at everything you’ve got.
IS THERE ANY ALL-STAR FORMAT THAT YOU LIKE MORE OR LESS HERE? “It’s been so long that it was dramatically different, that pretty much what I remember is the 10-lap thing. Back in the day, I wanted the best car to be able to win the race. And this format’s not about that, and it shouldn’t be. Because if you want to stir it up for the fans, and you want to make it crazy and exciting and sparks to fly and everything else, this is the format for that. So if I’ve got the fastest race car here tomorrow night, I’m wishing it wasn’t this format. But if I don’t I’ve still got a chance. So, it is about the fans, 100 percent. That’s why there’s a million dollar check out there is because it’s for the doggone fans and that’s what it’s for, you know? It’s not for us. It’s not for the competitor. It’s not for the guy with the fastest car. It’s about a loud and crazy shootout. And I think it’s a great format for that.”
WITH THE FORMAT OF THE RACE, DO YOU ACTUALLY MAKE A PLAN OR STRATEGY, OR DO YOU LITERALLY JUST WAIT AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS? “I wait and see what happens. But I do that all the time. If you make a plan, as soon as the green flag comes out, your plan usually doesn’t fit. So you have to look at all the things that are in front of your and take all that in; everything that’s in front of you, and make decisions based on everything that’s in front of you. And all that changes as soon as a caution comes out or circumstances of any kind that can rear their head. The way the tires perform, you name it, puts you in a position to adjust your strategy. The best strategies are made based on every bit of information that it in front of you. And all that information in racing changes, so you’ve got to move with it.”
THE WAY THIS RACE IS MARKETED IS THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO WRECK EACH OTHER FOR THE MILLION DOLLARS, ETC. FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW MUCH MORE AGGRESSIVE IS THE FIELD WILLING TO BE IN THIS RACE BECAUSE IT’S NOT A POINTS RACE.? “A little bit, but not as much as you think because we race all-out all the time. It’s hard to try harder at everything you’ve got. You can’t win if you wreck. And for me, if I’m trying to pass somebody, I’m trying to, right up to the limit of me losing control too. If I wreck somebody, it’s going to be by accident. It’s not going to be on purpose and I might do it. It has happened in racing. It doesn’t have to be the All-Star race. But for me, it’s hard for me to push any closer to the edge because I’m already like every time I get in the race car and I get behind somebody and I’m trying to make a competitive pass, I’m pushing it right to the limit of what I think I have the skills to hang onto all this. You can be somewhat more aggressive with your strategies or risky with a move that might work but might not work. It might yield you a pass or it might cost you five spots or you might get one so you’re going to try it now, which you wouldn’t try, you know. You can do some things like that.
“I still have not seen anyone intentionally wreck somebody to win this race. I still think that we all have enough integrity to race hard and yet we all are capable of making mistakes and it doesn’t have to be the All-Star race to make a mistake. It is a ‘gloves off’ kind of race, but it’s not like daylight and dark difference between the 600 and this race. It’s a shorter format and if something does go bad, it doesn’t really matter. But we still all have integrity.”
ON THE UPCOMING RACE IN KANSAS, WHEN YOU GO THERE AT A DIFFERENT TIME OF YEAR, DOES THAT CHANGE ANYTHING? “I haven’t thought that far ahead. It’s a great race track, a really great race track. I’ve raced a lot in Springfield, MO and even up at I-70 and stuff like that. You get a lot of homefolk kind of fans there and it’s fun and exciting. Being that it comes at a different time of year, it’s kind of a blur. Most of the competitors right now are sort of in a blur of just trying to meet their schedules and they’re looking at their calendar and seeing where they’re at now and where they’re going next.”
OVER THE YEARS, HAVE YOU SEEN PAYBACK COMING OUT OF THE ALL-STAR RACE? HAVE DRIVERS BEEN UPSET ENOUGH IN A NON-POINTS RACE TO AFFECT A POINTS RACE? “I’ve never seen payback in an All-Star race. I don’t remember. Must not have been too big a deal or it would have left an impression in my mind. So, I don’t recall.”
IS THE REASON YOU REMEMBER THOSE TWO ALL-STAR RACES SO VIVIDLY BECAUSE THERE ARE NO POINTS ON THE LINE AND THE ADRENALINE IS SO HIGH AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN IN THAT DASH FOR THE CASH? “I’m not sure that’s what it is. No, like I said the coolest wins or the most exciting wins I’ve ever had are when I didn’t know I was going to win until the last lap; like Michigan in ’09 when the other two guys ran out of gas. That was cool. In the ’98 thing, Tommy Ellis ran out of gas on the last lap at Myrtle Beach in 1987 in a Nationwide race. Those, I don’t know why. It’s just wow! It’s just crazy. I don’t know why. But I think it just has more to do with the circumstances. I do remember winning the 600 here in 2002 as well because I thought I might be done seeing checkered flags as well. Listen, there is no driver in that garage that wins races, that when they win, someday when they win, that’ll be the last one they ever win. And none of them know when that ever is. So, I’ve learned to appreciate that; all the way back to 2002, so that’s going back quite a while.
And just a reminder guys, talking about 2005 and that being a throw-back paint job, of course we’ve got a little bit of a throw-back looking car here this weekend that’s not really mine, but it’s very nostalgic for me. It reminds me a lot of Benny Parsons and Tim Richmond. Red No. 25 on our car means an awful lot; and I think that was Papa Joe’s car and it means an awful lot. It’s a very cool-looking car and we’re excited to welcome Farmer’s Insurance as a major sponsor and it’s going to be four more races going forward.”
-source: team chevy