Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings, trailing leaders Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart by 51 points. Martin spoke about this weekend's race at Martinsville as well as the rest of...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is fifth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings, trailing leaders Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart by 51 points. Martin spoke about this weekend's race at Martinsville as well as the rest of the season prior to Friday practice.
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
ARE YOU GLAD TO GET LAST WEEKEND OUT OF THE WAY?
"I have to be careful about agreeing with that because I love Charlotte so much and Lowe's Motor Speedway, but I was relieved to get through that. We were conservative on things, so we should have been one of the last two blow a tire out, but as the race went - sooner or later it gets to you (laughing). All of the early birds had their trouble and sooner or later that backs up to you, so, yeah, it was good to get that behind us. Our was awesome. It was fantastic. It was a night where we had a few setbacks on pit road - not all pit stuff. We almost had a wreck on pit road."
CAN YOU TAKE A RACE LIKE LAST WEEK MORE IN STRIDE THAN OTHERS?
"It was easier to take because we had a little bit more to say in our destiny there than we did at Talladega. In other words, we could be more conservative on air. We didn't have to put air in when NASCAR came around with the air thing. We were already there. I don't know how many didn't, but I know a lot of them that did have, we were already there and we were already very competitive with all of those things. So it's frustrating if you get caught out. If we would have had a tire problem, then I would have been one of the ones frustrated, but at least we had the opportunity to have more air in our tires, to have more scuffs. The first three sets of tires we put on, my right rears had 20 laps on them. They were 20-lappers. Most of the time you throw them away, so we did things to try to help us. At Talladega you can't. I'm trying to explain to you that it wasn't as frustrating of a race for me as one where I've got no control over the outcome."
DO YOU THINK WAS NASCAR RIGHT IN MANDATING AIR PRESSURE?
"Yes, I do. I don't see a bit of problem with that. They should have been there anyway. We were."
SHOULD THEY MAKE THAT A REQUIREMENT? HOW WOULD THEY POLICE IT?
"No, necessarily I don't. But under the circumstances they were contemplating shortening the race. I think making the teams put air in their tires that were below what they thought they should have been wasn't as bad as saying, 'OK, in 20 laps the checkered flag is coming out.' I think that would have been horrible for everyone."
WAS IT JUST CHARLOTTE OR DO YOU PLAY WITH AIR PRESSURE?
"We play with air-pressure a lot. I can feel tire trouble by how hard it pulls from a tire. I know if it's gonna be a tough one or not."
SO DID YOUR SENSES PLAY INTO GETTING THROUGH LAST WEEK?
"I'll say this because I had an interesting question after the race. 'So and so said he was running 80 percent. How hard were you running?' I was running as hard as I thought I could get away with, the same as I do every week. It's just that this week I was further away from all the way, but I don't run these front tires like these young boys do ever - ever. Because you know what, if they ever get a long green - like at Kansas had some long greens - if they ever do get a long green, you notice I'm usually coming back. These guys don't have experience. They didn't race in the tire war. They didn't race when the tires blew out like that - a lot - and hit concrete walls. It really, really, really hurt. But forget how bad it hurts. That's not why I really shy away from it, I know that you can't win championships and you can't score points in the wall. So we tested there and we knew that the tires were gonna be a problem. In fact, I think I had one go down in testing. If I recall correctly, we had a right-front go down in testing. We saw a number of others that did. We addressed it and we did our best to address it. We usually do play with air-pressure, but I could tell how hard that place was and that it was really gonna be tough."
COULD THIS CHAMPIONSHIP COME TO YOU BECAUSE OF YOUR EXPERIENCE?
"That helps a little bit, but let's talk about fast learners. Let's talk about Jimmie Johnson. He blew a right-front on lap 27 of the Busch race and he won the 500. So let's don't get all puffed up and think we're smarter than all these people. Let's remember that we've got some fast learners out here, too, and that was a little bit of new situation slightly for some of the high-tech drivers, but some of these guys learn real fast and that's why they're in the top 10. Some of the others that are real fast that didn't learn quite as quick, they aren't in the top 10. So, sure, my experience helps me. I do run my car as fast as I think I can get away with it all the time, and that's rarely 100 percent - except maybe the last 30 laps at Kansas when it was time to let it go. The rest of the time I sense things and feel things and I'm always trying to make my car better. The problem we had at Charlotte was we couldn't protect the right-front because we'd blister the right-rear. If we tried to protect the right-front too much, we'd tear the right-rear off of it. That was a concern, too, and that's the box it really put me in. Usually if it's just protecting the right-front, I can do that. But when I can't protect the right-front because the right-rear is gonna give out, then I'm like, 'Oooh, this is tougher.' So when the tire blew on lap 27 of the Busch race I called Pat (Tryson) immediately. As soon as he hit the wall I said, 'Pat, where are those 15 lappers from practice?' Always before when I do that they always say, 'Well, we already turned them in.' But I had three sets of 15-20 lappers from practice and that's six right-rears. You can make all of them right-rears, so that was six sets of right rears."
SO YOU WERE ON SCUFFS WHEN EVERYONE ELSE WAS ON STICKERS?
"We did go to stickers later on in the race because we used more tires than we expected with all the cautions, and we did run some stickers, but I'm just saying that immediately on lap 27 of the Busch race started making a plan based on my experience. Whereas a high tech driver is up there, 'He blew a tire.' I was like, 'Hey Pat, where are those 15 lappers. You got an 20s? That's six sets of right rears right there.' That stuff does happen, but how much does it help? I don't know. Jimmie Johnson just whooped us."
WHY HASN'T THIS BEEN A BETTER TRACK FOR YOU?
"I don't get along with small, flat tracks. Small, banked tracks I'm real good at."
WAS IT THE SAME IN ASA?
"Yeah, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, Rusty won at the first time he went there, which was a flat half-mile - a lot like Martinsville. I went there and I ran fifth, but when I went to Winchester, which is like Bristol, we won. The race tracks that I'm not my best at are the ones where the rear tires will spin. I'm not the best at a place where the rear tires spin. My specialty is momentum, not stopping and going. My specialty is momentum. That's why with I do lower horsepower cars because I don't stop them. A lot of these guys go in the corner real hard, stop, and go again real good and they get the tires to not spin, and all I ever work on is rolling across the middle real fast, which makes you spin the tires coming off and then I get to driving like a rookie and start spinning my wheels."
DO YOU GO INTO THIS RACE THINKING THAT MAYBE YOU DON'T GAIN POINTS THIS RACE?
"This is the first time I've come to Martinsville in years with a lot of confidence. I can tell you right now that we're gonna win on Sunday. I'm tired of being called a pessimist. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. We can win here Sunday and I believe that we might. We have the same car that we ran third with. We led this race for a short period of time and we ran third, and it hasn't been scratched since we ran it. It ran good in practice; it wasn't a fluke; it ran good the whole race. It's a good race car plain and simple. I have every reason to believe that we should run good again because we have the same car without a scratch on it."
IT OUGHT TO BE GOOD.
"It ought to be good. Now I've seen it where you come back with the same stuff and it won't work. I have seen that happen, but I have confidence coming in here that we're gonna be good."
DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU QUALIFY HERE?
"It makes me mad to qualify poorly, but it doesn't have any real major bearing on the outcome. It just irritates me because I'm a competitor and I don't understand why people can beat me that bad. I think we were 19th here in the spring, but the car was really good in happy hour and it was really good throughout the race. I feel really confident, as confident as I felt going into Charlotte, where we run good all the time and where we knew we would run good. I'm very confident."
WHY DO YOU THINK THERE'S A DRIVER SHORTAGE?
"I think in the past the drivers weren't harvested because you didn't need them. There wasn't as great a demand and now we have 38 or 40 really top teams and we may have only had 28 before, so I think we have harvested them for a reason. I'm a big young driver supporter. I've been high on that when you all thought there was something wrong with me. I was criticized for all that and then it happened. But right now there just aren't any that are available that are ready. There are some guys available that aren't here, but they're tied up and waiting for their opportunity with their respective contracts."
IS THAT AN ISSUE WITH DRIVERS BEING TIED UP WITH OTHER GROUPS?
"Obviously, that restricts one or two that might. Maybe in the old days you'd run out and get Clint Bowyer, or you might run out and get Martin Truex. Obviously those guys are pretty much ready to make the step, but they are tied up and spoken for. You have to be forward thinking and think further ahead, and even if you don't think you need it, you need to be on it because Roush Racing probably didn't think they needed it four months ago and now we need more than what we have in our arsenal."
IS THERE A CHANCE YOU COULD STILL RETIRE THIS YEAR OR IS NEXT YEAR A DONE DEAL AS FAR AS COMING BACK IN '06?
"My deal is a done deal now. It's a done deal with the sponsor and all of those agreements are done. If Jamie were to get loose, he would wind up in the 97 car."
WHAT DO YOU THINK WHEN YOU SEE RUSTY WINDING DOWN? THAT WAS YOU TOO A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO.
"I came out of Talladega very frustrated with myself for getting into the situation of having to go forward and needing to go forward one year. But I'm really at peace with it because, and I've said before and I think everybody knows, I'm at peace with it because of what Jack Roush has done for me and for what my team has done for me. Even more than Jack Roush, these guys love me and they've never questioned me. They're behind me 100 percent and they've made compromises in their lives so that I could have success on Sunday, but the way I deal with this is I'm not dealing with next year until next year. I can't do it. I will overload. I will short-circuit. I don't know anything about next year. I don't know how I'm gonna deal with it. I don't know how I'm going to use my psychology to get through it. I don't know. I'm not dealing with it right now. I'm not gonna do it."
IT SEEMS LIKE THIS IS 95 PERCENT A FAVOR TO JACK AS FAR AS YOU DOING THIS.
"It started out to be the right thing for Jack Roush and Roush Racing. That was the convincing factor in the very beginning. What it would mean to Roush Racing if I would come back for one year. So that sort of soaked in and then it became apparent what it would mean to the guys that I'm calling my heroes and, to me now, that means more to me than even the Jack Roush thing. But these guys here, I raced for 25th place in 2003. You've all heard me say and I'll say it again, I raced for 25th place. These guys made a winner out of me. I'll do anything for them - anything - because we don't know that I haven't won the championship this year yet. In my opinion, they have given me the best year of my career. It has been. The performance has been awesome. We haven't backed into fifth-place in points this year."
Continued in part 2