NNCS Tuesday teleconference: Mark Martin

This Week in Ford Racing September 7, 2004 Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, has finished second or third in four of the last six NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races, which has helped him move from 15th to 10th in the point standings. ...

This Week in Ford Racing
September 7, 2004

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, has finished second or third in four of the last six NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races, which has helped him move from 15th to 10th in the point standings. As the series prepares for the final race before the Chase for the Championship begins, Martin spoke about his team's success on the weekly teleconference.

MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus

Q: HOW DID YOUR FAMILY AND PROPERTY FARE WITH HURRICANE FRANCES?

MM: "My family went with me to California because of the hurricane. They hadn't planned on going. The property held up pretty good. My office got some water damage and we had some problems there. It's a horrendous mess around there, but that's basically pretty much it - just water damage at my hangar and office. It's a big mess there, but I'm in Batesville, Arkansas, at the Ford dealership and Mark Martin Ford here. The weather conditions really aren't that good even at this time. I'm not too anxious to fly down there. I'm supposed to be testing tonight at Charlotte for Goodyear and testing again tomorrow, but that doesn't look very good, either. So I'm kind of hanging out here at the Ford dealership and just kind of waiting to see what happens."

Q: YOU'VE GONE FROM 43RD AFTER DAYTONA TO 10TH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT TRIP?

MM: "Every time that we got close we had another mechanical failure, which we've had just a tremendous amount of this year. We were well on our way several times and then would get our legs knocked out from under us, so we have had tremendous performance this year from the Viagra team. The cars have been really fast. We had our share of mechanical misfortune, but the car has been a top-five car and this is a top-five team every week for the past 10 or 12 weeks. This is a team that deserves to be comfortably in that thing and maybe we'll get lucky and not have any trouble Saturday night. This is a team that can contend for the Cup, I believe. I really do, but if we don't make it, we've given it our best shot. I'm so thankful and feel so privileged to be a part of this team and to be able to drive these cars."

Q: CAN YOU TALK ABOUT PAT TRYSON?

MM: "It's amazing. I just don't know what else to say, but Pat has been our leader. He's managed to really pull this team together and this team is made up of terrific people with a fantastic engineer in Wally Brown, who is very loyal to me and the 6 car. Todd Zeigler is our car chief and you just couldn't find more loyal people and more capable people than those guys, and each and every one on this race team right now is loyal to their very core and their heart is really in this thing. I feel it. I feel the love from these guys and they feel it back. It's a real special time in my life. It's a very family feeling situation that we're in right now. It feels like family with the 6 car team."

Q: HOW BADLY DO YOU WANT TO GET IN THERE THIS YEAR AND GO AFTER THE TITLE?

MM: "I'm not sure that I can give you a great description of how badly I want it, but I will say that this has been more pressure than I've ever felt - 2004 has been the most pressure I've ever felt in my career. There are some reasons for that that I won't go into, but this has been as difficult as anything I've ever done in my career, which is to try to overcome how much we spotted the competition (laughing). So I'd have to say that this has been one of the most difficult times in my career, but usually, a lot of times, those are the ones that turn around and give you the most rewarding results. So we're just gonna stand by and see what happens here over the next few months."

Q: DO YOU FEEL THE PRESSURE OF THIS RACE AT RICHMOND?

MM: "Absolutely not. That's like a needle in a haystack compared to the pressure that has been on me this year to elevate the performance of the team. The performance is there. There is no pressure. There is no pressure on this race. The performance is there. I have a great car. I can't help it if we have a mechanical failure or if we get in a wreck. Those are things I can't avoid and there is no pressure on that because we can only control the things we can control. We're doing a great job with that (controlling things) and we will have a fast car."

Q: IT SEEMS THE PAST MONTH OR SO YOU HAVE EXPRESSED GRATITUDE FOR THE CAR YOU DRIVE. HAS THIS BEEN REAWAKENED IN YOU OR HAVE I NOT BEEN PAYING ATTENTION?

MM: "No, you've been paying attention. Here's what I'm doing. I'm saying that because I'm comparing that to what I went through a year ago. We raced last year a whole lot of the time for 25th place and I wasn't that grateful for what I was doing. I wasn't that happy about the performance and wasn't able to do anything about it. I am incredibly grateful for a chance to drive cars that can win races and lead races and be contenders, but I just don't really care anything about racing for 25th. I wouldn't do it. That's not why I race and I will not race like that for very long, so thank goodness I have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people that are able to get this done. It feels so good."

Q: JACK HAS MENTIONED ONCE OR TWICE THAT THE STRATEGY WILL REALLY START IN THE FINAL 10 RACES. YOUR THOUGHTS?

MM: "I'm not worried about that, yet."

Q: IF YOU COULD ADDRESS YOUR FELLOW DRIVERS RIGHT NOW, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM ABOUT HOW TO RACE ON SATURDAY NIGHT?

MM: "It's just gonna be the same racing as always. It's always intense on the race track. There is not 43 live-or-die positions at stake here. There are only about eight, or seven or six. I'm sure you know the number better than I do - probably five or six spots that are really under the gun here. I think the racing is always intense. I don't expect it to be that much more intense than normal and we'll just go out and race our race like we always do."

Q: SO YOU WOULDN'T WANT TO TELL ANYONE ABOUT TAKING CHEAP SHOTS OR THINGS LIKE THAT?

MM: "No, I'd like to see everybody race like they always do. I don't see a lot of cheap shots anyway. I'd just like to see the same racing as always - intense, fair, and clean as usual."

Q: YOU DON'T WANT TO TALK A LOT ABOUT THIS UNTIL THE WEEKEND IS OVER. WHY? "Because I've had my heart broke many a times in this business. Things seem to find a way of not working out for me and if I don't count my chickens before they hatch, I won't have any problems here. We've got a race to go do at Richmond. If we go do our job and everything goes our way, we'll have something to talk about Saturday night. If it doesn't, then we'll just set our sights on winning a bunch of races here in the last 10 races, which I know we can do with our team right now."

Q: HOW WORRIED WERE YOU THAT YOUR TEAM WAS OUT OF THIS THING AND DOES THAT MAKE THIS COMEBACK MORE SPECIAL?

MM: "We have come back, but we haven't. We haven't totally done it until Saturday night is over with. It's very gratifying to work with such a great race team and have an opportunity to win races and everything. There has been a lot of pressure to make the top 10 cut. I didn't think we could do it when we spotted the competition over and over and over again so many points, but we've managed to do it and that's a great thing so far, but we do have another race to contend with so we'll see how that turns out. But I'm sure we're gonna have a fast race car and a great effort, and how it turns out is how it turns out."

Q: WILL YOU KEEP TRACK OF THE COMPETITION AROUND YOU IN THE POINTS?

MM: "If they're behind me, it won't matter so we won't have to do a calculator. That's what we're really shooting for. If we position those guys behind us, it won't make any difference. I won't not race because I don't have to. I'll run the same race I always do, which is as aggressive as makes sense for the situation. I'll do my very best to win the race - my very best to run in the top five. If we run in the top five, it's a no-brainer, a done-deal. If we can't run there, then we'll try to run in the top 10. If we do that, we're pretty comfortable with that and we'll make the best of the situation. But sometimes you do miss the setup, sometimes the air comes out of the tires or something breaks or you can't miss a wreck or whatever. The team and I will do our best to avoid all those things."

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RIR TRACK AND IT BEING THE FINAL ONE TO MAKE THE CUT?

MM: "I think it's great. I think it's a great place to race. I wouldn't get too carried away with Richmond being the greatest place in the world to bring the chase down to because I think that all races mean the same. In other words, Daytona in February was just as important as Richmond is, although the media tends to focus on the last one. But the last race isn't the make-or-breaker, all of them are. They accumulate. Richmond is a great place to race and I love that, but how you do in Richmond is no more important than how you did at all the others. If we would have done a better job, we would have been locked in by now with controlling our fate, but it's come right down to that race and we're gonna go there and do everything we can to control our destiny. I'm sure that we're gonna run really good. We've been really strong everywhere for the past dozen races and I feel comfortable about how we're gonna run and I'll do my best to bring it home. If it doesn't work out, then we'll just set our sights on winning a bunch more races this year. This team is capable of doing that and that's all we can do. Either way it goes, we're gonna go out and try to win some races here."

Q: HOW MANY TESTS DO YOU HAVE LEFT?

MM: "We have two two-day tests left."

Q: DID YOU TEST AT RICHMOND?

MM: "Yes."

Q: DOES LOYALTY YOU RECEIVE FROM THIS TEAM MEAN MORE TO YOU THAN THE OUTCOME OF WHAT HAPPENS AT RICHMOND?

MM: "Yes, it does mean more to me. The outcome in Richmond, ultimately, is not in our control. The effort that was made by this race team has been championship material and it's been a dream for me. Two thousand three was a very difficult season on me personally because of the performance and that performance is so controlled by the people that work on that race team. They're getting it done and I'm loving it."

Q: HAS IT BEEN FUN?

MM: "It has been fun, yes it has. I'm not one that speaks of that a lot, but it's definitely been fun and very gratifying. The family feeling that I feel with this race team and the loyalty that I feel right now makes it really exciting looking forward and going forward."

Q: SITTING IN BATESVILLE TODAY, DOES IT MAKE YOU REFLECT?

MM: "Yeah, it's good for me to get back here sometimes and reflect on where I've come from and what I've accomplished. As you know, it never feels like it's enough and it never feels like I've done enough and accomplished enough and there's so much more to do. You get so caught up in that that you forget sometimes where you came from and all the blessings that I've had and opportunities with all the people I've had to work with at Roush Racing over the years and the great sponsors and the great success. That's what I'm working on here at the dealership. I'm working on building a new facility where I can put all the trophies and all the race cars that I've collected and all the great time capsules of all the photographs and things like that in one place where people can enjoy 'em. Where I have 'em right now, no one gets to see 'em except the people that work for me and we're used to seeing 'em, so it doesn't really mean that much to us. So I'm really looking forward to building this dealership and moving into the new facility."

Q: WERE YOUR ASPIRATIONS AS GRAND AS WHAT YOU'VE BUILT?

MM: "You know me, but I was different when I was younger a little bit. I was a little bit cocky and really thought that I could go do this thing at a very early age. But as I traveled the road and saw how difficult it was to accomplish the things that I thought I could accomplish, it really made me appreciate and understand how lofty my aspirations were and it makes me appreciate so much the success that I have had."

Q: IS 400 POINTS A GOOD NUMBER FOR THE CUTOFF?

MM: "I don't know. I'll be honest with you, I was very critical of that being totally ridiculous - that anyone outside the top 10 would be within 400 points. That was my stand on that when they announced that and it looked pretty ridiculous I'd say four weeks ago. It looked like what I thought it was, but racing is racing and things change and I was wrong (laughing). Somebody might get in that's 11th or 12th in the points, so I don't know. It's not for me to be critical of any system. I haven't been critical of the new points system. I've just said that hopefully we can make it work for us and hopefully it will work for us, but, at the same time, my only reservation about changing the point system was why we were doing it, not so much whether it was a good thing or not for the fans. Obviously, the fans are gonna be the winners in this thing, but for the competitor's sake, for every man's gain is another man's loss. If it works out good for me, it's gonna have had to hurt someone else."

Q: HAS THIS ROUSH-YATES COLLABORATION PAYING OFF MORE NOW?

MM: "We have gained horsepower and reliability in our engines. We weren't prepared to use the new cylinder head at the beginning of the year and really didn't get started running any of the new cylinder heads until May or June. Still, just now we're able to use the new engines exclusively with the new cylinder heads, so we've made some horsepower progress. More than that, we've just got our stuff together. At the 6 car those guys have figured out how to set my cars up the way I really like 'em to handle. They've just made tremendous progress in the chassis setup."

Q: WHEN WAS YOUR HEART BROKEN THE MOST?

MM: "I don't know for sure. I will tell you this just to start with. Some people think that I've won a lot of races, but I've lost way more races that I had won and didn't win. In other words, whatever the total of my wins are in Busch and Cup, I had more than that in the bag and had 'em slip away. That always hurt. For me, I found the way to protect yourself from all that is not think something was yours until you had it. I don't know. I've had a lot of disappointments in my career and I've had a lot of high points, too. That's the way they go. I can't point out any one particular."

Q: DO YOU WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE AS FAR AS YOUR EMOTIONS? HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY?

MM: "No, I haven't. I've learned through the years that keeping an even keel is a good way to preserve yourself. When things go bad, if you rush out and slash your wrists, then things are really gonna be bad (laughing). So I've tried not to commit career suicide by overreacting when things didn't turn out the way you had hoped. But the reason I've been so emotional this year is that in 2003 I thought that could be the way my career was gonna end - on that kind of disappointment and humiliation and performance. I can't fix that. I couldn't change that, but my team has been able to fix that and change that for me. Gosh, how could I not be emotional towards the effort the team has given me and the things that they've done? It's just incredible. I'll be grateful for the rest of my life for what they've been able to do with the 6 car and turning it around."

Q: YOU SOUND SO HAPPY. DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE ABOUT HOW MUCH LONGER YOU WANT TO DO THIS?

MM: "I certainly would say that my outlook is totally different than it was a year ago. A year ago I would have got out if I could, but I had commitments and when you have commitments you do 'em and that's it if you're me. That's it. Obviously, this year has been totally different and, yes, it feels much better and, yes, I feel like now I can compete against these young guys that were out there beating my brains in week in and week out. I'm the same race-car driver I was a year ago that wasn't getting the performance on the race track and getting the job done. The only difference is that what I'm driving today will go (laughing). It will go. It was a very frustrating year for me last year and a very gratifying year for me this year."

Q: BUT HAS IT CHANGED YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON RETIREMENT?

MM: "I appreciate your question and I appreciate your persistence, but we're just gonna have to work with what I gave you. I don't have anything to announce at this point in time. I would love to make the top 10 after Saturday night and have a chance to race for the championship in 2004, and plan on going out and winning it in 2005. That's as far as I'm talking about right now. That's more than enough to be worried about."

-ford racing-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin