Talladega II: Martin - Friday media visit

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 POP TARTS/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed managing his stress running the full season, his expectations going back to Texas after his run in Charlotte, the new safety ...

MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 POP TARTS/CARQUEST IMPALA SS, met with members of the media at Talladega Superspeedway and discussed managing his stress running the full season, his expectations going back to Texas after his run in Charlotte, the new safety precautions put in place for this race and more.

ON THIS RACE. "I'm cool with it. I believe this one is going to be a good for us. Probably a good one would be just not wrecking."

ON JIMMIE JOHNSON RACING FOR A FOURTH CHAMPIONSHIP, WHILE HE'S STILL LOOKING FOR HIS FIRST: "if he goes on to win it, he will have outscored me. So he definitely deserves it. And I won't, because you have to score the most to win. I have a lot of thoughts on that. First is, I've been beaten by Earnhardt, I've been beaten by Gordon, I've been beaten by Tony Stewart. And I will not be embarrassed if I'm beaten by Jimmie Johnson. I'm not ashamed of any of 'em. That doesn't make me have a bad career. In fact, a lot of people would think that's pretty good.

"And I never stood up and said I was better than any of those guys. Those are the guys. I believe it was Earnhardt twice (who Martin finished second to). And Gordon and Tony. And I have the greatest respect for all of them. I'm not ashamed of it. I love this sport, I love what I'm doing, and I've said this before and I'll say it again: I am not bitter about what I have not accomplished. But I am proud of what I have accomplished."

IS THE RACING GOOD? "I think the racing's better this year than it was last year. And hopefully it will continue to get better again next year. It wouldn't matter what kind of car you had, if you racing, it would be hard to pass, because all 43 are almost the same speed. It didn't used to be that way."

STILL HAPPY YOU CAME BACK FULL-TIME? "It would have been the biggest mistake of my career to have passed on this opportunity. I feel very good. I feel fresh. And surprised that there's only four (races) left. The people had Hendrick Motorsports have made this a better year for me than I expected. The sponsors have been wonderful to work with and it's beyond my wildest dreams. One thing is, the testing (ban) has helped enormously. I would not have re-signed for 2010 had the testing been brought back, much less 2011. That's huge.

"You know, when you're in a bad mood and something happens, it irritates the heck out of you and when you're in a good mood, and the same thing happens and it doesn't bother you. Have you noticed that? Well, that's where I've been there this year. I haven't been tired, burned out, frustrated and all those kinds of things. I'm fresh and enthusiastic and all those kinds of things."

WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS TIME TO MANAGE IT SO YOU DON'T HAVE AS MUCH STRESS? "One thing is the testing has helped enormously. In other words I would not have signed for 2010. I would not have signed for 2010 had the testing been going back much less 2011. So that's huge. You know when you're in a bad mood and something happens and it irritates the heck out of you, and when you're in a good mood and the same thing happens it doesn't bother you, have you noticed that? Well that's where I've been this year. I haven't been tired and burned out, frustrated and all those kinds of things. I've been fresh and excited and enthusiastic and have had a good frame of mind. So the challenges that I've faced this year have been easy to deal with. These guys have had a lot to do with the whole thing. Alan (Gustafson) and all the people. Not just the No. 5 team but everyone at Hendrick Motorsports. Where I am in my head today, this is what I want to do. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to be doing with my life. I don't want to be here and somewhere else at the same time. I want to be here. I was some of that before I wanted to be at the race track with Matt and I wanted to be at home on the couch or whatever it was and I got a chance to do those things. I'm really, really at a good place in my mind right now and at peace with everything. My whole life, what I'm doing and incredibly blessed with Rick Hendrick and Alan Gustafson. All the people are so good. They're so first class and so professional within the whole organization, teammates the whole things. You know the challenges that we have faced and dealt with this year have been easy to deal with."

YOU'VE ALWAYS HAD VERY INTERESTING MUSICAL TASTE, HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ANYBODY NEW LATELY? "Well I think you guys know about Gucci Mane and I'm wearing that out. But yeah it's all in the rap department right now, new stuff and old stuff. I still love Dr. Dre and Snoop and all that stuff from the early 90's."

WHAT ABOUT THE GAME? "I just downloaded two new songs from Game, but Gucci Mane is the man. I just really enjoy his stuff right now. I play it every day when I'm working out. I'm spending between 1 ? and three hours a day in the gym because I'm rehabbing some tendonitis and that's taking an enormous amount of time on top of my regular routine so I'm getting a lot of iPod time."

WHAT'S YOUR EXPECTATION GOING BACK TO TEXAS? "I look forward to it. We did get a chance to show what we had at Charlotte and we didn't have enough that particular weekend. We were second fast in every practice. We were second fast in qualifying but in the race we didn't perform quite like we wanted to so we get another chance. Texas is a different race track and a different day. It's been a good place before but this is the time when we need to land on both feet."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE NEW SAFETY PRECAUTIONS THEY'VE PUT IN? "I do agree with the unfortunate fact that we have to slow the cars down because that's the only way we keep them down on the race track and out of the grandstands. Its unfortunate we have to slow them down because that takes away from the racing itself from our standpoint. From the fans standpoint it makes it as good or better so they're going to get a as good or better show but from the drivers and teams standpoint it's going to be very frustrating because the cars are going to be so under what they could do that it's more like setting the cruise control and going down the interstate with the other guys than it is who can make the fastest car. So NASCAR has addressed it. It's unfortunate that we have to slow the cars down but we do and I agree 100 percent with their call on the restrictor plate."

IS IT GOING TO BE HARDER TO DRIVE AWAY FROM EACH OTHER NOW THAN IT WAS BEFORE? "Yeah."

WON'T THAT MAKE THE RACING EVEN CLOSER? "Yeah, it will. It will be better for the fans."

IT'S STILL JUST AS TRICKY FOR YOU GUYS ISN'T IT? "It's worse but it doesn't put cars in the grandstands. It just wrecks them. I mean seriously. That's the deal. We've got to keep them out of the grandstands. Unfortunately I'm a guy, Mr. anti-restrictor plate. I'm the first one to tell you that that's our number one job and always has been number one. Wrecking these cars, we can usually handle that but we can't handle getting one out of the race track so we've got to keep them in here and restrictor plates is the only way we know to do it and we've got to keep the plate small enough to try to keep them on the ground."

DO YOU VIEW THIS AS THE LAST STAND FOR THE GUYS CHASING JIMMIE BECAUSE HE'S PRETTY GOOD AT THE LAST THREE TRACKS? "Yeah, but he could have trouble. But this is the biggest opportunity, yes. This is the biggest opportunity for all of us and I would assume he would go into this race uptight like I always have and I'm not because it really doesn't matter. Either way for us because we can't do anything about it anyway so we might as well just go out there and have some fun with it. That's my approach."

YOU SAID YOU FEEL FRESH NOW, IS THAT PHYSCIALLY AND MENTALLY? "Physically I'm okay. My workout routine is on it."

IS THERE ANOTHER PART OF YOU THOUGH THAT LOOKS FORWARD TO THOSE LAST FOUR RACES JUST TO GET AWAY FROM WORRYING ABOUT POINTS AND ALL THAT STUFF? "Yeah, I'm tired of points. I ain't tired of racing. Racing don't bother me. I'm not tired of racing. I am tired of points which we've done this about long enough. We need to get a fresh outlook. We've got four more and for four more we'll race for everything we can get, every point we can get because every position that we can get is valuable to us."

DOES IT SEEM A LITTLE BIT SAD TO KNOW THAT THIS YEAR IS GOING TO COME TO AN END? "Because of the points I'm glad that it's going to come to an end in four races. Other than that I don't care. This is exactly what I want to be doing. It's been enough build up toward, there is a lot more pressure on me to make the Chase than it is what we're doing now because I wanted to have a chance. We're having our chance. We're sitting second. We've done a great job. We're a contender and that's what I wanted to do. We'll see how it all goes. I'll look forward to starting with a clean slate in Daytona."

YOU MENTIONED TENDONITIS THAT YOU ARE REHABBING, WHERE IS IT? "It's in my feet."

IS THAT A CHRONIC THING, HAVE YOU BATTLED THAT FOR A WHILE? "It's not a big deal. I've had it for almost two years and it comes and goes."

IS IT FROM YOU WORKING THE PEDALS? "No. I think they say you're unlucky when you get it. I don't think they say there is something that causes it. I think they say you're unlucky. Plantar fasciitis is what it called."

YOU SAID YOU WERE ADDING ON TO YOUR WORKOUT ROUTINE TO HELP THAT CONDITION? "Well there's rehab. I'm rehabbing the strength and flexibility in my feet, ankles and lower legs."

OBVIOUSLY THE LAST TWO PLATE RACES HAVE ENDED WITH A LAST-LAP CRASH, I UNDERSTAND YOU PUT TWO GUYS AT ANY TRACK YOU CAN HAVE A LAST-LAP CRASH BUT THAT IT'S HAPPENED AT RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACES DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS A COINCIDENCE OR DOES THAT BECOME A CONCERN AND IF ITS NOT A CONCERN WHEN DOES IT BECOME A CONCERN? "It is a concern whether it's first or second or on back and the trend is there whether its first or second or a little on back. It's virtually impossible to finish a restrictor-plate race without wrecking. Inside the last 20 laps I don't see it happening. I see five cautions or more cautions just because you can't let a guy have any space any more. You can afford to let them have space earlier and you can't now. It's unavoidable. It may not be first and second every time but you're going to have multiple cautions at the end of a restrictor-plate race."

I JUST WONDERED IF AT SOME POINT NASCAR HAS TO STEP IN AND PROTECT THE DRIVERS THEMSELVES, THEY SAY THE DRIVERS HAVE THE STEERING WHEEL, ACCELERATOR, BRAKE PEDAL HE HAS TO LIVE WITH THE CONSEQUENCES. "Yeah, but you can't help it if your five wide. Whose fault does the wreck become then? I'm sorry. You can't blame it all on the drivers. You can't. That's not fair because of the circumstances that we are put into. You gotta go. It's the end of the race. You can't let anybody have any room. Where you've got three wide in Daytona or four, or five or six here how can it be somebody's fault? What the last guy to make it five wide? Is it his fault when the hole was open? He's gotta go. You shouldn't be able to get five wide here. You wouldn't if we didn't have plates on it but we'd land in the grandstand when we wrecked then."

THE LAST COUPLE OF RACES WE'VE SEEN WHERE TWO GUYS NOSE TO TAIL CAN KIND OF PULL AWAY FROM THE FIELD WHICH IS SOMETHING YOU REALLY HADN'T SEEN TOO MUCH UNTIL RECENTLY, DO YOU SUSPECT THE SMALLER RESTRICTOR PLATE MIGHT INHIBIT THAT? "I don't expect that to stop that from happening."

SO YOU STILL THINK TWO CARS CAN MAKE A BREAK AWAY? "It's a phenomenon. I don't know what it is. I've watched for two years on TV and then I was here and I didn't do it but I saw it happen. I don't think any of us really understand how you get hooked together like that and go away like that."

IT GOES AGAINST EVERYTHING AS A VETERAN DRIVER THAT YOU'RE USED TO? "Yeah, it's some different phenomenon then there was before. It's specific to the COT I think."

DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD REVISIT ITS POLICY ON DRIVERS WHEN THEY RUN INTO A SITUATION LIKE A.J. ALLMENDINGER RAN INTO THE OTHER DAY? "I don't think there is any problem with NASCAR's policy and the team always does have the right at any time. It always has in the contracts they can suspend. I think it's being handled fine."

DOES STRATEGY COME INTO PLAY AT A TRACK LIKE THIS WHEN YOU CONSIDER YOUR PLACE IN THE CHASE? "At this race track strategy might come into play a little bit but my strategy is finish as high as I can every time I go out. So we'll do whatever we think will give us our best shot at the best finish we can get."

THE FINISH WE HAD HERE BACK IN THE SPRING, THE CRAZINESS OF THAT, DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK IS A LITTLE SAFER NOW THAT THEY MADE SOME CHANGES WITH THE FRONT? "Well they've worked on the fences and they've also put a smaller restrictor plate to lower the speeds of the cars which will keep them on the ground better. Unfortunately we needed to do that. We've got to keep the cars on the ground."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports