FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES DURA-LUBE/BIG KMART 400 February 21, 1999 North Carolina Speedway MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE "It was great. It's been 10 years since we won our first...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES DURA-LUBE/BIG KMART 400 February 21, 1999 North Carolina Speedway
MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE "It was great. It's been 10 years since we won our first race here, first Winston Cup race together, Jack and I, and this was another example of what a great race team that I work with today. Just like the Bud Shootout was. I have a lot to be thankful for. For Jack Roush and the things he's made available to me and, of course, Valvoline-Cummins and all our sponsors -- the Ford Taurus -- and especially the guys that are selected and work on that 6 car."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -6- Valvoline Taurus -- THIS WAS A SUCCESSFUL WEEKEND FOR YOU WASN'T IT? "Jeff was the man. Mark and I both felt that way about him. Mark won his first race here 10 years ago and, of course, he was dying to win a race at that time. We were probably lucky that day. I do not remember how we won that race. We were probably lucky. Over the years Mark has struggled getting just the right setup in the car based on the way he wants it to feel when he gets on the gas. This is one of the places where Jeff Burton has got a really good feel. This is one of places where Jeff, I think, raised Mark to his level and there will be a bunch of places the rest of the year where Mark will raise Jeff to his level as he did last year. I can't tell you how excited I am to be with Buddy Parrott and Jimmy Fennig and Frankie Stoddard and, of course, Jeff and Mark, and all the things they're doing together. This thing is gaining so much energy, if it goes downhill I don't know if I won't be able to keep up with it, an old man like me."
DO YOU FEEL YOU'RE AHEAD OF WHERE YOU WERE LAST YEAR WITH THE TAURUS? "The Taurus, I won't say all the positive things about the Taurus, it's a great race car, but it was introduced to NASCAR in unprecedented time and that is not a virtue and not something to be happy about there. NASCAR was very apprehensive about the car and we had a tough year last year because we hadn't done the work with the car that should have been done before we introduced it. But everything's settled down with the car. We've had the chance to really get around it and to figure out what makes it tick. It is different than the Thunderbird and we had a freshman year with Mark's program. Mark joined Buddy and Jeff into the Mooresville shop, making his move from Liberty, and the only person who moved with that was Jimmy Fennig, the crew chief, and Dennis Ritchie, the truck driver. They put all new guys around that and the communication thing and all the things that a race team has to do to be well coordinated were notchy. Everybody was doing the best they could, it just wasn't as smooth as I'm sure it will be this year."
DOES THIS MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER AFTER DAYTONA? "I'm not happy about Daytona. People say that I'm a risk taker that know me pretty well and I really like to assess risks and only take the ones that are slanted in my favor. There's no way to prepare for, to train for, or to otherwise exercise execution that will keep you out of harms way at Daytona and Talladega. You wind up being stuck together with cars that have the widest range of driver ability and experience, have the widest range of number of drivers. The packs are the fullest, the speeds are the fastest and when somebody does something wrong, if you're in the wrong place there's no way you can avoid it...I had an extraordinarily bad feeling of foreboding before that race and, happily, nobody got hurt, but it was what I expected. I said at the time that I'm as happy to win any of these other races as I am Daytona, unfortunately, the importance is placed on it based on the promotion and the money and the fact that it's the first race of the year is disproportionate with what I think it's significance should be. Certainly toward the championship it's just another race."
DID YOU FEEL BURTON HAD MORE CAR THAN YOU EARLY ON? "Absolutely, Jeff Burton is the master here. He is and he's the master at Darlington and he may be the master at Martinsville and he's awfully good at Richmond too. These are all places where you can spin the tires and I'm not good at those places. People keep reminding me that I finish well at Martinsville every race, but it's hard for me. I like to be able to slam it to the floor. I know how to go fast and give it gas and when you can't, I can't stand it and I give it gas anyway and peel the rear tires off. That's something that we fight pretty regularly and I fought it yesterday in the Busch race. Jeff Burton, he is the master at those race tracks, in my opinion."
WAS IT NERVE-WRACKING THE LAST THREE RESTARTS? "It's always nerve-wracking. You know, driving the corner like a fool and slide up to the top of the race track and lose the race, and then you've gotta look everybody in the eye and say, 'I lost it.' There's all kinds of things that go wrong on restarts -- lapped cars get ahead of you. Believe me, I've lost a lot more races than I've won and there's all kinds of ways to lose them. You don't ever win them until you cross that finish line. For me, everytime there was a restart or a caution, it was just another opportunity to make it more difficult to win. But we had the car to pull it off there at the end and things went swell. The tire can blow out, the transmission can bust. I never count them until I can get to where I can coast to the start-finish line first, then I start hollering."
WHAT ADJUSTMENT WAS MADE ON THE LAST STOP? "The Goodyear tires today were probably the best we've had at Rockingham. They would go a fuel stop and that's something that we haven't seen much of at Rockingham. We adjusted the car for all of that green flag racing early everytime we stopped and then we actually started adjusting the car back as we got shorter and shorter runs due to cautions and that's all we did. We took back some of what we had done to try and gear it up for 80-lap runs."
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF GORDON'S MISHAP AND DID YOU THINK YOU HAD IT AFTER GETTING AWAY FROM JARRETT ON THE LAST RESTART? "I was looking behind me when Jeff broke his engine, so I saw it. I didn't think about it. We're racing to try and win this race. When I thought I had that deal in the bag, do you see that NASCAR, right there, that's where the checkered flag was waving and I got right there I knew that I could coast if something shut off. That's when I knew we were in good shape."
DO YOU FEEL YOUR PIT STOPS HAVE BEEN ELEVATED? "We'll just have to watch them and see. It sure has been good so far. They've been awesome and they've worked at it and they deserve it. Their hard work has paid off and we'll see if we can keep that going and make it even better. You gain and you lose when you pit, that's just part of the deal. It's never easier when you're losing, you have to go make it back up on the race track, so it helps just like horsepower helps, like the right shocks help. It all has to be right in order to win, it all has to be just right."
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE POINTS RACE? "I'm happy. It just would have been better if we would have finished Daytona instead of wrecking. It's just the second race. There is a lot of racing to go yet, but we look a lot better this Sunday night than we did a week ago."
HOW DID YOU LIKE THE WAY IT HANDLED WITH THE SPOILER? "I don't like changes. I didn't like it when the cut it off, I didn't like it when they put it back on. Whatever their rules are we'll just go try to make the best out of it and try to win. Personally, I can't tell that much difference. Everybody's getting the same, so you either have more or less downforce and the best cars, the best teams come out on top no matter what they have for rules, so it's OK. I don't like change. I'm just that way."
ANY CLOSE CALLS TODAY? "No, it was pretty clean today. There were some tight situations with some lap traffic, but nothing specific."
WERE YOU CONCERNED WHEN LEPAGE HAD HIS PROBLEM? "I'm sure nobody was watching what I was doing, but Mark made three pit stops today and I wasn't on the box and that's really uncommon. I was out checking my notes on what was in the engines and thinking about anything I could do about giving the guys advice that might help and anticipating the worst as it happened, we did have a couple varieties of engines today. Jeff Burton's engine made 15 more horsepower than Mark's and Kevin Lepage had one of those and the 21 car had one of those and one of them broke and two of them didn't. That leaves me with a real quandry. My mind is racing now wondering why the engine failed and, happily, I've got a week to respond to whatever I find when I get it apart before we got to Las Vegas. I was very much with the program. I had two conversations with Kevin. We took the thing apart as far as we could."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE BALANCE OF COMPETITION BETWEEN MANUFACTURERS? "I'm like Mark, I don't like change and I didn't like it a lot when they put the spoiler back on the car at Atlanta with the rule that said the rear spoiler had to be at 65 degrees because we were unbalanced. We knew we'd be unbalanced with that. NASCAR has come back now and said there isn't a minimum 65 degree rule for the rear spoiler, that will allow all the teams to achieve the kind of aero balance front to rear that they judge they need. Last year, when we started off and had some early success, we didn't win so many races early but we ran well early, and they came back and NASCAR made the two changes to the rear spoiler, they cut and inch off the side, that was two inches and they took a quarter off the top, that's a quarter. They decided, based on going to the windtunnel twice with a half-dozen cars, that the Taurus was a better car than the Monte Carlo by two-and-a-quarter inches on the rear spoiler as it related to downforce. Downforce gives you drag. We still carry the drag and have the extra downforce that we don't need for Daytona and Talladega. I'm not happy with the parity in the cars at Daytona and Talladega. If NASCAR had chosen to take cars, they would have seen the same kind of unbalance relationship in the the cars that we had last year, but as far as the unrestricted tracks I'm very happy." WHAT ABOUT SPOILER HEIGHT? "What we think we need is the same spoiler configurations for the unrestricted tracks as we do at the restricted tracks because the cars take the same templates for the same cars and when NASCAR got the data to see what the Taurus was doing and they fixed it for the unrestricted tracks, they left it the way it was which was a handicap for the restricted tracks."