Richmond Intl Raceway test quotes 2006-04-11

Quotes from the first day of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing at Richmond International Raceway in preparation for the May 6 race "under the lights". MARK MARTIN, No. 6 AAA Ford Q: You have said that this is your last season and that you...

Quotes from the first day of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing at Richmond International Raceway in preparation for the May 6 race "under the lights".

MARK MARTIN, No. 6 AAA Ford

Q: You have said that this is your last season and that you are just going to enjoy it and have fun, you are currently third in points, tell us about your season so far.

MARTIN: "I'm really fortunate to be working with a great team in the #6 car, but I think the most rewarding thing to be a part of in 2006 is AAA and the opportunity to do some really important work with driving safety, especially teen driving safety, which is one of their main focuses for 2006. It's very important to try to raise awareness for traffic safety. We're going to be doing some stuff in Arkansas, trying to get a primary seatbelt law passed there, because when I go there, my friends aren't buckled up, and I can't believe it. I think the affiliation with AAA has been a wonderful surprise for me and the team is doing a great job and it looks like if we keep going this way I might say that I went out of here on the top of my game."

Q: In Bristol, Matt Kenseth used you as an example of "what would Mark Martin do," the sportsmanship kind of thing. What was your reaction to that? It kind of seemed like a high pedestal of respect for you.

MARTIN: "Well, it was. That's come over a period of time and I'm not sure I really want that because I'm subject to blow a gasket as well. Everyone makes mistakes and has bad days. It certainly feels good to be admired and appreciated. That's something that's come over the past 20 years."

Q: Three of your Roush teammates right now are outside the top-20 and are going to have an uphill climb to get into the Chase. You experienced something like that in 2004. Can you explain what it's like to have to fight your way through five or six races to get in?

MARTIN: "This is the third year of doing the Chase and everybody's getting wiser and hungrier. Three fourths of the field didn't make the chase last year or the year before so I see it continuing to heat up and get more difficult. For us, we managed a charge that was really, really sweet, something very much like Matt Kenseth managed last year. Most people counted him out to be in the chase throughout most of the season, then he put on a charge. It can be done, but you have to look at all the great teams and great drivers. To be real honest with you, my charge could have been broken by two more bad days and Matt's could have been broken by two more bad days. No matter what you do in this sport, I hate to use the word luck, but no mater how good you are, there are things that can prevent you from being all you can be if you have more than your share of misfortunes."

Q: Matt Kenseth mentioned when he was talking about Dale (Jarrett) not getting out of the way that it was an unwritten rule to do that for the leader. Tell me what you consider to be an unwritten rule.

MARTIN: "Dale Jarrett just missed The Chase two years ago, so that answers your question as to why he stayed where he was (at Bristol). He didn't block the leader (Matt Kenseth), he just stayed where he was. That would have an effect on how you might handle the situation. I would have to say if I was in that situation, I might have handled it differently, but I didn't miss The Chase the last two years. You have to always put yourself in the same shoes. In my opinion, it was a set of unfortunate circumstances the way it happened, but Dale didn't block Matt, although him just being there impeded his progress. What I've done all through my career is try to do what I want people to do for me and that's not always easy to do. In this particular instance, it may have been more difficult than usual, based on the circumstances."

Q: Has going through last season which was originally going to be your final Cup season, dealing with the emotions as the last go round helped you as you go through this season towards what will be your final NEXTEL Cup season?

MARTIN: "That's a really great question and yes it has. I have totally come to grips. I was very focused in 2005 with the Salute tour and very intense on being near the top of my game. I had a great time with the fans and gave them something special and the media as well. As we go along this year a lot of that feels like it's somewhat behind me and this year I'm focused on the performance of the team and trying to meet all my obligations, which are the greatest they've ever been in my career. I have had a touch of emotion a couple of times this year, but for the most part I feel really good about what's going on and what's coming of it in 2007 and 2008. Since I'm not going to be retiring--I'm going to do the full Craftsman Truck Series in 2007 and 2008--at least I will be racing, otherwise I would be having a tough time with it, because there's a lot of race left in me."

Q: You've seen a lot of changes in your time in NEXTEL Cup, looking at it now on your way out, what trends do you see developing and how do you see the future of Cup, what do you like, what are you a little warry about where it's going?

MARTIN: "I have to be careful about things that I worry about. I've been doing this for so long that it's real easy for me to get sour on certain things. It's nothing like it was when I first got involved. When I first got involved it was a lot like the truck series is now, that's why I love the trucks so much because racing is a lot like racing the cars were back then. It has provided major opportunity for so many people. There was only a small group of people that had the opportunity to race in NASCAR when I first got started, and now there's thousands and thousands of people--that's a positive thing. The growth in that respect is great. I'm grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of it when it was so much grassroots and be a part of the tail end of the really big boom where there was lots of coverage, lots of recognition, much more lucrative. For me, I hit it at a very good time because I got some of both--some of the era where the Cale Yarboroughs and Buddy Bakers and all those guys--I had a little taste of that as it started to change and then got the tail end of the big boom and I can't see how it could possibly grow at the same rate that it has, but it may. I know one thing. If everybody out in the country is like me--that hasn't been introduced yet--as they are introduced to our sport they will be fans. There will be many more fans if they're like me."

Q: Talk about the importance of testing here. How transferable is the information to other tracks and what do you know now that you didn't know three hours ago?

MARTIN: "The importance of testing here is--if there was no testing it would probably be 95% the same for everyone, like it has at a lot of the other tracks we've gone to. The good thing about testing is we wouldn't be able to look at new and different things extensively if there was no testing. This gives us all an opportunity to step back, catch our breath and explore new areas. We're trying to explore new avenues that we probably wouldn't have time to look at if we just came here for a race. It gives you a chance to veer off path. But if no one gets to test here, then it's the same for everybody."

***

KURT BUSCH, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge

Q: You're not quite where you want to be in points, but you did get the win out of your way, tell us about your season and about testing under the lights at Richmond.

BUSCH: "It's great to have a chance to practice under the lights, especially when both of our races are here at night. It's been a great season so far for us with communication with the new team, we're running well on the speedways and the short tracks, and we know we have some work to do on the mile and a half intermediate tracks."

Q: Would you address what it's like for you in the points right now, having to fight your way?

BUSCH: "It's just the beginning of April--7 races in--so it's very tight in points still. We were just knocking on the door for the top 10, and then with one bad race we drop all the way back to 17th. If we have a couple of good races in a row, that will put us right back in position to be steadily right there and ready for the top 10. There's a long way to go, but once you get to June and start running into the summer months at Dover, Pocono and Michigan, that's when we start worrying about where we are in position for points, but we still have plenty of time to go."

Q: Have you talked to Biffle about Texas now that things have settled down?

BUSCH: "I tried to reach out for (Greg Biffle) and left a message on his phone and I'm sure I'll see him this afternoon. Biffle and I are both very competitive racers and we both looked for the same real estate at the same time, yet I was trying to yield as a lapped car on the track. Things like that happen and we'll definitely try to smooth everything out and move on to the next race."

Q: Matt Kenseth mentioned when he was talking about Dale (Jarrett) not getting out of the way that it was an unwritten rule to do that for the leader. Tell me what you consider to be an unwritten rule.

BUSCH: "I would say there's probably a hundred different unwritten rules as far as driver etiquette, whether it's giving somebody a break or going into your pit stall deep so that you don't block a guy in when he's getting out and he's on the lead lap and you're running for 30th place. When you're a faster car and come up to somebody, sometimes they yield out of the way and sometimes they race you for that position. It just depends what mood you're in, or if you've made The Chase, or if it's race seven or race 26 or if it's the last few laps at Homestead like Jimmie, Jeff and I had in 2004. It was very intense."

Q: Every driver's had differences in the point of the season with every driver, that's a given. In the case with Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, has it been more difficult for you personally because you knew those guys so well at Roush and you guys seemed to develop a relationship during that time with the team. Has the last three weeks been more difficult because of your prior relationships with them?

BUSCH: "It has and it hasn't. I can't say that racing has changed my outlook because I'm with a different team. I still try to race any competitor as if they are the same guy, whether they're new or old on the circuit. Racing for a win is something very special in the last 10 laps, and when you're a lap down and trying to get out of the way of the fast leader, no matter who it is, and an accident happens, I feel bad about it. With the old teammates, we definitely had some great times together. Biffle and I grew up running trucks together, and when I moved to Cup he shortly followed. We have some great relationships and it's not just one race that will tear it apart."

Q: Talk about the importance of testing here. How transferable is the information to other tracks and what do you know now that you didn't know three hours ago?

BUSCH: "The vision I think NASCAR has is to make the 26th race more competitive and that's why we're here testing at Richmond. That's the cutoff for The Chase, they want to make an equal opportunity for everybody when it comes down to the wire. Whether you're in or whether you're out, there's no excuses. You have a full two-day test to get ready for. It's all great because it's fun to test at night because we race at night."

***

JIMMIE JOHNSON, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet

Q: Tell us about your season, I'm sure it never gets old to be called the Daytona 500 Champion, and talk about testing under the lights, which is a first here.

JOHNSON: "It's been a great start for us. I'm very proud of the way the team has taken care of things, reacted and stepped up. We won a couple of events, but we had a couple of bad races. Last weekend was one of the hardest 11th-place finishes I've ever had. We had quite an adventure and worked very hard all day long and got the car near the top 10. All in all it's been a very smooth start to the season that I'm thankful for. It's so hard to count on uncertain things because luck sways things. We've had a lot of luck, but had some bad luck at Bristol and ended up 30th and we're still leading the points. We'll just try to keep things moving along, keep things working for us, focus on top-10 and top-15 finishes and hope it transfers over to The Chase."

Q: Matt Kenseth mentioned when he was talking about Dale (Jarrett) not getting out of the way that it was an unwritten rule to do that for the leader. Tell me what you consider to be an unwritten rule.

JOHNSON: "I think that our sport is evolving and changing and the rules are changing with it. When I started in Cup, just to use Mark as an example, early in the race up until two or three pit stops from the end, if you catch him and run him down he'll let you by and that was one of the unwritten rules where you give and take. Things are so intense now that every spot counts and track position is more important and competition is more intense. That game doesn't exist like it used to. You may see it with a few cars at different times if there's a big difference in speed, but everybody is racing harder than they ever would. One of the unwritten rules that existed out there is gone. So I think the rules are constantly changing and that's just because of the competition."

Q: Talk about the importance of testing here. How transferable is the information to other tracks and what do you know now that you didn't know three hours ago?

JOHNSON: "We are exploring different things. As the day wears on and we get into the evening, we'll be trying to hone in on some new things and hopefully find some speed here. This hasn't been one of the better tracks for myself and Hendrick Motorsports in general. We'll hopefully find something in the next few days."

***

KASEY KAHNE, No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge

Q: You are the defending champion of the race here on May 6, the site of your very first win, take us back through that and last weekend's win as well.

KAHNE: "Richmond is always a great race for the fans and the drivers really enjoy it, too. It's a lot of fun, the track gets to where you can race pretty hard and we're just trying to get our cars ready in the next couple of days in the afternoon and at night, since that's when we'll be racing. This is where I got my first NEXTEL Cup win and it was a great night for us. We battled with Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch and it was a lot of fun racing."

Q: The other guys were in here talking about the importance of the 26th race here in the Fall. You're in good shape right now (tied for third with Mark Martin). Is that one of your goals, to be solidified in the top-10 before you get here so you don't have to deal with that pressure and would you describe what that pressure could be like?

KAHNE: "It would be great if we could be in the spot where we don't have to worry about this race, but if it is a place where we have to worry about getting into the top 10, it's a good track for us, so it's nice to be able to test here. It will help us for the first race and second race at Richmond. We've had some great runs so far this season and doing a good job in points too. So, we just need to keep that up and hopefully we won't have to worry about the final race here in the past like we have."

Q: Is that 26th race one that you get your calendar every year and you look at the Daytona 500, the Brickyard and is that perhaps a race that's right up there with the others?

KAHNE: "I think it's a race that's good. It depends where you're sitting though. The Daytona 500 and the Brickyard are such big races. If you're close like we were in 2004, we went into the race trying to make the final 10 and we could have easily made the top 10 if we ran better, but we finished 26th and didn't make it. Jamie McMurray was right there and Mayfield ended up making it. It's just close and that brings a lot of attention and makes for a fun race. Everybody gets pretty nervous at that point in time."

Q: Talk about the importance of testing here. How transferable is the information to other tracks and what do you know now that you didn't know three hours ago?

KAHNE: "The track felt really similar to how it did two weeks ago in the Busch car. Really most of the time at night here the track tightens up a little bit so if you have your car a little bit free, as long as it's turning good, it will be good at night and maybe even better. One good thing about this test being as long as it is, is we'll see what it does at night and I imagine it will be the same as the past years."

-rir-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Jarrett , Matt Kenseth , Tony Stewart , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Jamie McMurray , Cale Yarborough , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports