Richmond II: Martin - Ford Friday interview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, will be trying to make the Chase for the Nextel Cup for the third straight year when the green flag falls tomorrow night. Martin is currently ninth in the point standings and has a 32-point...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, will be trying to make the Chase for the Nextel Cup for the third straight year when the green flag falls tomorrow night. Martin is currently ninth in the point standings and has a 32-point advantage over 11th-place Kasey Kahne. Martin spoke about his mindset prior to Friday's practice at Richmond International Raceway.

MARK MARTIN - No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS WEEKEND? "We're just gonna go racing. We really should run good here this weekend. I like this car. This is my favorite car. We've run good everywhere with it this year and we'll see how it turns out. We're gonna give everything we've got. I really appreciate my team. They've worked their guts out and we'll see what we've got after this race is over."

WHAT IS THE SMARTEST WAY TO GO ABOUT THIS RACE ON SATURDAY? "The same way you raced for 19 years." AGGRESSIVELY? "You're making it too complicated. It's not that complicated. You go out there and race for everything we can get just like we always have."

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU'VE LEARNED FROM THE FIRST TWO CHASES THAT YOU CAN TAKE FROM THAT? "No, there really isn't. I've been doing this for a long time. I've been racing for points more than 19 years and I've been blessed to have a lot of good cars and a lot of good teams and had a lot of success at it and somebody is not gonna make it. That's too bad. For the 11 teams that are really fighting for it, it's too bad that one of them is not gonna make it, but that's how it's gonna go down."

IS THERE MORE PRESSURE? "I don't feel any pressure this weekend. I have felt pressure this year for a lot of reasons, but I'm beyond that at this point. I think the biggest pressure for me has been trying to make a difference, trying to get things arranged so that we could have a shot, really, at the championship and, of course, to make the chase first of all and trying to get things in position so that we could be a contender when we needed to be. There's been a lot of pressure with that. It's been a challenge. We're racing against some great teams and great drivers and they all take it really seriously, so at this point now it's boiled down to one race and all those things that I stressed about are done and over with now, it's just a race and one team won't make it."

KAHNE HAS FIVE WINS AND MIGHT NOT MAKE THE CHASE. SHOULD THERE BE A CHANGE IN THE SYSTEM? "No, it would make me feel good if I won five races. I think that would be a pretty good season from that standpoint."

DO YOU FEEL THERE SHOULD BE MORE POINTS FOR WINNING? "No. I think you need to race like you always have. It's the same system they've been using, basically, for 50 years. It's been good enough for 50 years, so I think it's fine now. Unfortunately for Kasey Kahne, they didn't do the right things in some races or they would be leading the points."

THERE COULD BE GUYS WITH NO WINS WHO MAKE THE CHASE. SOME WONDER IF THIS IS THE BEST WAY TO CROWN A CHAMPION WHEN THE GUY WITH THE MOST WINS ISN'T EVEN ELIGIBLE. "I don't know. We went into it last year without a win too and came out of it with a win and were fourth in the points. The system has been in effect to some degree for 50 years. It's always been great and it always will be."

ARE YOU RACING THE TRUCK AT NEW HAMPSHIRE NEXT WEEK AND IF SO WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? "Yes. I think it's gonna be fun. I love driving that Scotts truck with Mike Beam and all those guys. It's just a riot. It's just a blast."

YOU'RE BATTING .500 OVER THERE. IF IT WAS BASEBALL YOU'D BE MAKING 50 MILLION A YEAR. "Dang, I'm in the wrong business then (laughing)."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RUMORS WITH JOINING ROBERT YATES? "You know, next year we're probably gonna see a two-headed man drive the 88. I hope it doesn't come out that I've got two wives next week. I don't know. That's about where that is. There's no serious consideration given from me to that at this point."

IN BUYING OR DRIVING OR BOTH? "Or both, really. Jack wants me to be a car owner and has been on me for two years now. Golly, I'm trying to hedge my bet, but I'd like to say that that's never gonna happen, but I won't say that because, look at me, I'm driving this year and I said it wasn't gonna happen. So I'm not saying that nothing won't happen, but I really don't want to be a car owner. I'm a race car driver and I'm not finished driving. I'm gonna be driving for a long time and I really wish that I had news for you guys because I know everybody is anxious, but I really haven't even thought about 2007 since last week or the week before, and especially since last week. It hasn't crossed my mind. I haven't talked to anybody, a sole. I haven't done anything on 2007, so, believe me, I don't have something hidden away that I'm trying to keep from people. It's not on the front burner at this time."

WHERE DOES THIS STUFF COME FROM? "I don't know. Speculation-wise, it wouldn't be a bad thing. The 88 doesn't have a driver right now and would love to have, I'm sure, a veteran. I don't know. I guess people sit around and think what would make for a good situation and they might have thought that would make for a good situation, but I haven't given that a serious consideration. The only thing that I have really given real consideration is a 12-race sub-program to go along with my truck program. Since that isn't gonna happen with the 6 car, I haven't given that anymore serious consideration because it's just not really what's on my mind. You've got to remember that I've been in the 6 car for 18 years and I came back for Jack Roush and for Pat Tryson and the team for one more year because I'm ready to step out of the 6 car. I'm ready to do something different. It's been a long time. I don't know exactly what life is gonna be like, but I'm ready to find out. I'm ready to do something different. There's just no real high priority for me to be worrying about all that right now. It's been a tough summer. We have fought hard and worked hard and these next 10 races after Richmond I'm gonna have fun with come hell or high water. I'm determined to have fun with it no matter what. I'm serious. I haven't been having fun lately and I'm getting ready to start having a bunch of fun, so that's it. I've made up my mind. Chase or not - 19 years is enough - I'm gonna have 10 races that are fun, period (laughing)."

HOW MUCH FUN IS THIS LAST RACE BEFORE THE CHASE WITH ALL THAT'S GOING ON? "This is the heat. I can't imagine there being more interest in any particular race. Really, the cool thing would be if they changed the chase system for points to 10, 9, 8, 7, then we could go into Homestead with about six or eight drivers that would have a shot at the championship. That's probably the only way you're gonna be able to top the excitement associated with this weekend."

DO YOU MEAN LIKE AN ELIMINATION? "No, the worst you could get is 10th-place in points. The guys going for the championship shouldn't get messed up by everybody else. If you have a bad race, it shouldn't be 43rd, it should be 10th."

THERE ARE 725,000 POSSIBILITIES THIS WEEKEND. ARE YOU KEEPING TRACK? "If we run fourth, it can't go bad on us. That's about the easiest way to keep it. Like I said earlier, unfortunately one is gonna get shut out and it's gonna be a little sad because all 11 really almost deserve to be in there. At the end of the day one will get shut out and that's the spirit of competition."

WHAT'S YOUR COMMENT ON THE 88 RUMOR? "Next week, a two-headed man drives the 88. I'm flattered that there's so much interest, I really am, but it's not a serious consideration at this point."

COULD THAT CHANGE? "Yep, it could."

IS IT DEAD? "I think it's dead, but I answered both your questions. I think it's dead. I said I wouldn't be driving full-time this year and I am, so I'm trying not to do a whole bunch more of that. I don't want a reputation for you not being able to count on what I say. That's something that is important to me. I don't want to be a car owner, but I don't ever want to say never, although I want to say it because I believe it, but I'm not gonna say that as well. Just for example, I don't see that, but my problem is there's great interest and there's no action. I just don't have any news - none - zero. I didn't even think about it this week or talk about it, except, of course I read the internet and all. I don't have any news. I can't do it. I really want to, but I don't have anything. There's this total blank where that is concerned. We haven't worked on 2007, really, at all - not even one breath this week and virtually hardly no breath last week. It's just not there. As I told some other folks here, I am interested in a 12-race Cup program to go along with my truck program, but there's nothing done. There's no done deal. There is no 12-race deal right now. I've got a lot to look forward to. I've got about six truck races left this year. We're gonna try to win that owner's championship. I think we're third right now. I'm gonna drive all the races but one, and I'm gonna have some fun these last 10 races no matter what - chase or no chase. I've really fought hard this year - harder than I was supposed to. Jack told me not to and my wife told me not to, and I didn't pay them any attention and got in here and got involved deeper than I might have, but it means a lot to me. It just means a lot to me. I just can't race unless it's screaming all the way. These last 10, I promise, even if we go for the championship, even if we make the chase and we're in it, I'm not gonna get as intense as I have been. It's more than I need."

IF YOU DON'T MAKE THE CHASE, ARE YOU OK WITH THE FACT THAT YOUR CHANCES FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP ARE DONE? "I'm fine with the championship thing. I won't be fine with missing the chase and I'll never forget it, but it's been a difficult year for us and we haven't managed to have the consistency that we had last year. We haven't had the consistency. It's been a tougher year for us."

KIND OF DISAPPOINTING? "Yeah. It's been a disappointment to me because my team has worked their guts out, I drove my heart out, but we haven't had as sharp a program as we had last year, although the potential has been there to be the best year of my career. We haven't been able to be consistent with that. Only some weeks has it been better than I've ever had in my life, and some weeks it hasn't been chase material - but some weeks have been championship material. If it had been all mediocre, it wouldn't have been nearly as frustrating. What threw me into this thing was the Phoenix's and the Dovers and so many others where we actually had breathtaking cars and weren't able to do with them what we needed for various reasons."

DO YOU REGRET AT ALL COMING BACK THIS YEAR? "No, I don't. But I do regret getting so intense. I didn't mean to, but that's just me. I wish I hadn't got so intense, but I thought I could make a difference and at the end I got frustrated because I wasn't able to make the difference that I hoped I might be able to."

ARE YOU RULING OUT A FULL SEASON IN CUP NEXT YEAR? "No. That hasn't happened. I'm also not working on such an opportunity, either."

IS THERE A TIMETABLE FOR YOUR PLANS NEXT YEAR? "I got my contract for this year at Daytona in February. I'm just telling you that I got my contract when we got to Daytona in February. I don't know if I'll get my truck contract before then or not, so I don't know. I don't have a timetable. My answer is, of course not. I've got a truck team sitting there. I'm gonna run six of the seven races and we're still gonna try to win the owner's championship and it's sitting there and ready to go. I'd like to run 12 Cup races, but based on NASCAR's rules, I can't do that with Jack now so I don't know. I wish they didn't have that rule because then I'd be running 12 races, but they do. I am not currently working on anything, period - and that's the truth. All hell might break loose on Monday, I don't know, but I can tell you right now that for two or three weeks it's been zero. I'm not working on anything."

WHAT KIND OF AN OPPORTUNITY WERE YOU LOOKING FOR AS FAR AS A 12-RACE SCHEDULE? "The reason that was out of the question in the beginning was because usually that kind of deal renders a very weak program and a very weak car. I got excited about that because there was talk of me doing that in the 6 car, along with another driver. Now I haven't gotten un-excited, but I don't want to drive a backmarker to do it. It's quite a challenge to see something like that work out, but the reason I decided to do truck racing rather than a limited Cup schedule back in 2004 when I started making plans is because it's obvious you can't have a 12-race Cup team that can compete with a full-time team. Let's face it, that's the truth, so because I don't care to race riding around, I decided that I'd rather go truck racing and have fun and have a chance to win, rather than to go ride around in the back 12 times a year. Then this other scenario popped up and I got excited about it, and now I haven't all the way wound back down from that yet."

THERE COULD BE AS MANY AS FIVE NEW GUYS IN THE CHASE THIS YEAR. HOW COULD EXPERIENCE BE A FACTOR? "A lack of experience can help and it can hurt, either way. It just depends on the magic. These guys that make the chase are smart enough to put 10 races together that are good even if they've never done it before."

HOW DIFFERENT IS THE CHASE? HAVE YOU NOTICED ANYTHING DIFFERENT? "Nothing out of the ordinary. You can't afford to have a bad race. You don't need to be breaking equipment or having stuff fall off or wheels sling off. You have to make every race count, just like you did when you tried to win them and it was 36 races, but there might be less cushion in 10 than 36."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Kasey Kahne , Jack Roush , Mark Martin