An Interview With: Mark Martin
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to our NASCAR CAM video teleconference in advance of Sunday's FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway. Our guest is Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Mark is currently 14th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings. At Dover, Mark has some very impressive statistics: Four wins and a track record 22 Top-5s and 30 Top-10s in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Our team has done a really good job with our race cars, especially the last four or five races.
Mark, you are heading back to a track where you have enjoyed some great success. What's your outlook for this weekend?
MARK MARTIN: Our team has done a really good job with our race cars, especially the last four or five races, and I really like the way things are going, and I look forward to going to the track and working with these guys every week.
Q. Just wanted to ask you, Dale Junior indicated in the race the other night he was going to have a team meeting to apologize to his crew for his pit road mistake; is that a new side that we have not seen before, and can you kind of comment on what you've seen this year from him?
MARK MARTIN: I've seen a lot of new stuff, new sides to Junior this year. You know, I don't think anybody is working harder to have success right now. I don't think any driver is working harder than Dale Junior to have success.
I'm very impressed with how much he's engaged, and you know, I'm real happy to see the results coming from that. Nobody deserves it even more than Dale Junior.
Q. I also wanted to ask you about Regan Smith, you worked with him at DEI; seeing him get that win, does that validate some of the things you've thought about him all year?
MARK MARTIN: You know, he's a great race car driver, and a really fine young man. I was really happy to see that happen. They have been making really serious progress with that team for over a year now. And you know, it's just a real nice success story for Regan, as well as, you know, the whole team, the whole Furniture Row team, you know, being out of Colorado and everything, that's a real success story.
Q. Pit crews have been in the spotlight quite a bit lately. Can you talk about what you've seen the progression from when you started to how athletic they have become since when you started?
MARK MARTIN: Sure, when I started, the guys, the pit crew guys that performed the pit stops were mechanics of the race team. And although they did practice a little bit, not regular practices, you know, for pit stops. So they were doing four tires in 20 seconds and gas, and you know, as the speeds got down to -- you know it, got to 13 or 14 seconds, they took the second jack away and the third air wrench away to slow it down, and that knocked it back down again.
Then now you are seeing 12-second pit stops again. So it's amazing how much athletic ability that these guys have, how much they train, physically train, and practice to do these pit stops.
It is more critical than ever, because the cars are closer to the same speed. So it's harder to pass than ever before. There's more of them on the racetrack that are the same speed. So the pit stops have become one of the more critical aspects of what we do.
Q. As mentioned, you've had a lot of success at Dover, it's amazing to me, I look back and see your first race there was in 1982. Do you remember anything about that, what it was like coming to Dover back then or the race itself?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I love it. I loved it the first time I went there, and I remember the track record being set at that first race 144 miles an hour (chuckling). I think that's 25:40 or something like that, I think it was 25:40 was the lap time. And since then, we have seen lap times down into the 21-second bracket.
Yeah, a lot of things have changed there, but one thing that's stayed the same is it's a wonderful place to race. Wonderful racetrack, one of my favorite places to go. It's the only concrete track that I really love. And I loved it even more when it was asphalt, but I still love it. It's one of my top-of-the-list favorites.
Q. Certainly has been a lot of speculation about what you're going to do and going into next season, how much have you turned your attention to 2012 at all and is there any time frame of when you're hoping to get things shored up.
MARK MARTIN: Well, lucky for me, I don't -- I don't need a job, so I don't have to worry about it. If I was 20 years younger, I would be concerned about it.
But I'm in a good position right now, you know, being able to wait it out and let things play out the way they will.
Something really, really fun and exciting is going to work out for me, something that will be very rewarding, and I'm in no hurry to force that to happen. I'll just wait until it sort of falls in my lap, just like the 5 car did. I wasn't looking for a job when the 5 thing fell into my lap.
So I'm in a good position where I don't have to -- you know, people still -- the only thing that people in the garage will talk to me about, or the only thing they want to me about, is driving the race cars. And that's okay.
You know, but sooner or later, maybe I'll get a chance to do something else in the sport, as well. I want to be a part of this sport for a long, long time, but they keep running at me about driving their stuff, so we'll just wait and see what happens.
Q. Your thoughts with Kyle Busch one behind you on the Nationwide all-time list; how special is it to be that all-time leader, and do you have any plans to run more Nationwide races? You've held him off with your one win so far this year.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, it's an inevitable thing. It's like Jack Ingram saw it coming when I was coming along; it's inevitable.
And it's been fun. I've had a lot of great times and a lot of success in the Nationwide Series, and Kyle passing my mark up won't change any of that. He's going to pass it up and I think he's already talked to me about this weekend, this is a good weekend for that to happen. He's running Dover and Charlotte, so he stands a good chance. And he's already invited me, if he wins this weekend, he's already invited me -- he wanted me to come to victory lane.
So you know, Kyle has shown an awful lot of respect to the people who have been here in the sport and that came before him. I really admire that. He's a young man who didn't really even know who Sam Ard was, and has acknowledged Sam probably more than any of us, and helped Sam and his family out.
So I respect Kyle for the way he has shown respect for the people that were in the sport before him that were successful.
Q. Do you have any more Nationwide races scheduled this year?
MARK MARTIN: I have two on the schedule, in the dollar general Turner motorsports car, yes.
Q. Which two, can you tell us?
MARK MARTIN: Kentucky and Michigan.
Q. So you can keep fighting him off.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, we did manage to get a big win for those guys, first win for Turner Motorsports there in Vegas, so it was really cool, because we had done that back with Junior, and got Junior his first win there at Vegas, as well. So that's pretty cool. Those things don't happen every day, especially when you get to this point in my career.
... Kyle has shown an awful lot of respect to the people who have been here in the sport and that came before him ...
So I've enjoyed them and we'll give them our best shot every time we climb in that thing, and you know, I don't know what the future holds. We may run some more in 2012 in the Nationwide Series, and then we may not. But either way, with the exception of making a little fun out of it, there's no holding Kyle Busch back.
Q. Dover, that's where you got your first Nationwide win, were you referring to that a few minutes ago, or the Winston Cup? Can you remember that first Nationwide win at Dover?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I do now that you bring it up. But I didn't even know that that was where I got my first Nationwide win. But I do now, because Brett Bodine and Tommy Ellis -- I was running third and Brett and Tommy tangled, two hard heads out there on the racetrack tangled and I slipped right by the two of them and got the win.
Q. Obviously your first year at Hendrick you had five wins and were second in points and then 13th in points last year, and now 14th in points so far this year. Curious if the last couple of years have impacted what you plan to do in the future. Have you gotten any more frustrated, or does it add more desire or how has that impacted your attitude, per se?
MARK MARTIN: It really has not changed things a whole lot. Of course, in 2009, the fun factor was pegged. You know, I am still the happiest I've ever been in my entire life. I appreciate the opportunity that I have to be a part of the sport that I love so much.
And, you know, in having, you know, all of the people that support me and the sponsors, the multiple sponsors that support me, the incredible fan support that I enjoy; and the team members, and the team work that goes on, I am definitely enjoying -- I have enjoyed the last five years more than, you know, all of the other years prior to that combined.
I'm at a good place in my life, and I certainly appreciate the opportunity that I have today, much more than I appreciated when I was younger and didn't have a full understanding of what was going on. I was just focused on racing and winning, and that was all I could think about.
And now, you know, I'm involved and appreciate so much more the team work that's involved, the people that I get to work with. I'm one of the most fortunate people in the whole country. I'm doing exactly what I want to do, and what I love. And not everyone can say that. So I consider myself very lucky.
And like I said a little while ago, I'd be happy to talk to, you know, anyone in motorsports about doing anything. But all they want to talk to me about is driving race cars, so now I consider myself lucky that they want to talk to me about that.
Q. You sound a lot happier than a guy who has three Top-10s in ten races this year. Do you think your team is better than that, or do you feel like you're struggling?
MARK MARTIN: I don't think that -- you know, I don't think we are struggling. We haven't had, you know, the best of luck and good fortune on the racetrack. We have had a couple of poor runs, but we have had a number of really good runs that we didn't get as good of finishes as we might have.
We certainly are working hard to try to pick that up, pick the performance up. We are not where we would like to be, but we have shown great promise in a lot of races: Really fast car at Richmond, and Darlington, and you know, a lot of places. We've had good race cars. We are working to get better, just like everyone else. There's 40 cars out there that think they can run in the Top-10 and only ten of them can, each week, anyway.
Q. With all of this talk of feuding drivers over the past week or so, it gets lost sometimes that a lot of guys in the circuit like yourself and Jimmie Johnson are always able to show tremendous self-control inside and outside of the car. And I wonder how you built that in a sport where you come up in short tracks where it's all aggression, all of you to the front; where does self-control come from and what role does it play in helping you do your job?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I think a lot of it is your personality. It's the way you're genetically inclined. It's the way you were raised. It's the way you grew up. It's the experiences you had. You know, it's all those things. It's how long you've been around.
And how many times you've done something and looked back on it and wish you would have handled it differently, and maybe learned from that. It's all those things. Everyone's different, and the way everyone reacts to any given circumstance is different.
Q. Do you have any specific episode in your background that led you to that, or is this something you've developed over time?
MARK MARTIN: You know, I think what I just said, I can say again, exactly the same thing again. I mean, you know, you're born pre-disposed to be a certain way, and then you learn as you grow, and the more things you experience, the more you earn, the more you develop.
And you know, some people are inclined to have a very short fuse, and some people are inclined to have a very long fuse. And some people never blow up and some people do blow up and there's all in between. And I think everyone's different, you know. I'm just me.
Q. You mentioned earlier that Kentucky Speedway is one of the places where you'll also be running the Nationwide car. Curious, did you do much testing at Kentucky in the past, and if so, how beneficial on top of that -- how beneficial will the time you get on the track before the Cup race be?
MARK MARTIN: I felt like I was one of the most limited-experience drivers that's going to Kentucky. I've only tested there twice and never raced a Nationwide car or truck or anything there.
So that was one of the races I wanted to target to run in the Nationwide car and try to get a feel for the tires and the trends of the racetrack and get a little extra time with the place, so I would be as ready as anybody.
Q. May obviously is a big racing month, and I'm curious if you're one of those guys that always kind of pays attention to the Indianapolis 500, and if you had kind of what you consider a classic moment or favorite memory or race from the Indy 500 as it celebrates its 100th this year.
MARK MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. I keep an eye on what goes on at Indy, for sure. I think Danny Sullivan's spin-and-win was pretty awesome. That was -- we had Miller was the sponsor on his car, and I think they were a sponsor on my asa late model at the time, as well, so we had a little kinship in that respect.
But that was pretty incredible to be able to spin like that and keep going and not hit anything and manage to come back and win the race.
Q. And you mentioned, it's kind of something you do keep an eye on, I assume; is it's hard I imagine with all of the things you have going on to watch the race, but do you try?
I keep an eye on what goes on at Indy, for sure. I think Danny Sullivan's spin-and-win was pretty awesome.
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I watch part of the race. I usually don't get to see the finish because it's the driver's meeting and then a couple of activities. But I certainly get to watch the start of the race, and a lot of times the first half, usually that's the last part of it.
Q. I wanted to ask you more about that record with the Nationwide Series and Kyle creeping up on that. As you look back and remember your days in that 60 car when you were kind of reeling off wins week-in and week-out, what do you remember that might be parallel to what Kyle is experiencing right now, and what do you think is different?
MARK MARTIN: One of the things that's very similar, is when we would unload that 60 car, most everybody in the garage figured they were racing for second. I think that's how they feel like about Kyle and the 18 car.
You know, the times have changed and cars have changed. And the racing has changed somewhat, too. But the bottom line was, we had a very dominating kind of spell there in the Nationwide Series for several years there, and we only raced a limited schedule. We would run 12 or 14 races each year, where Kyle's running them all. He's reeling them off a lot quicker than they were able to, because we would only run a dozen races or so each year.
Q. Did you have a sense of almost invincibility that the race was going to be yours if everything went well for you?
MARK MARTIN: No, absolutely not. No. You know, I've been racing -- it doesn't matter what -- the fastest car does not always win these races, and you know, I've had more things go wrong, and lost a lot more races than I thought we could win than we actually won.
So we had a lot more of them actually slip away that we could close the deal on. To me, it's never -- I never expect anything but 100% effort. I don't expect results. I let the results take care of themselves. I just expect an effort from my team and myself.
Q. Do you think fans sometimes misunderstand the complexity about your on-track and off-track duties of a NASCAR star? And what is more tiring for you, your work on the track or the activities off the track?
MARK MARTIN: You know, that's different. The demands physically and mentally are different on and off the racetrack.
But equally is taxing, just in different ways. And it depends on your level of success; the more successful you are, the harder you have to go off the racetrack.
You know, so it's what we love, and it's what we want to do, and all that stuff that happens off the racetrack is very important to what happens on the racetrack and to giving you the opportunity object on that racetrack. And when you're in the middle of it and when you're in the fog, a lot of times you don't see all that and you don't appreciate the whole picture.
But when you get to a point to where you can stand back and you look at it and you realize that we are some of the luckiest people in the world being able to do what we do, and nobody gets to do exactly what they want to do every minute of the day.
So some days, you've got to do something -- as a race car driver, some days you just have to do some things that you'd rather be doing something else. You'd rather be meeting or talking with your crew or driving a race car, but you need to be doing, you know, something else that supports that whole thing. So it's definitely a full-time job.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you everyone for participating today, and Mark, thank you for your time today and best of luck this weekend at Dover.