As part of a press conference to announce his racing plans for the 2007 season, Jack Roush and Geoff Smith joined Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Ford Fusion, inside the Talladega Superspeedway infield media center. The following is a transcript...
As part of a press conference to announce his racing plans for the 2007 season, Jack Roush and Geoff Smith joined Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Ford Fusion, inside the Talladega Superspeedway infield media center. The following is a transcript of the formal press conference and comments from all three participants.
MARK MARTIN -6-AAA Ford Fusion: "I was 39 years old when I started making my plans for the future. I realize at this time that I was way too early to do that. I thought that at the age that I am right now that I wouldn't be able to compete against these young guys the way that I have in the past. I think that everybody knows that I'm not interested in just riding around. When you can compete like I have been able to the last couple of years at this level of competition, it's hard to step away from. I've got a chance to keep going on a limited basis with great flexibility in NEXTEL Cup competition. It's hard to walk away when you have an opportunity to still have an opportunity to win races. What I'm looking for right now doesn't fit in with what's going on at Roush Racing. I'm very proud of what we've been able to build over the last 19 years. We have five teams at Roush Racing that are all competitive and championship-challenging race teams, and that's evident from what you saw with all five teams in The Chase last year.
"With NASCAR's limitation on the number of teams that you can have, and with all of the programs being set up to be championship-contending teams, there wasn't an opportunity there to split a season with a driver, which would take you out of the Race for the Chase. The deal to come back in '06 with the 6 car and with Roush Racing, and the opportunity to work with AAA on such important issues as teen driving safety has been a great opportunity for me. And, it has given me one of the best years of my career. I really want to thank AAA and Jack Roush for giving me the opportunity to help them out and come back in '06 and work with Pat Tryson and all of the guys on the 6 car, even though that wasn't my long-range plan. I can't thank Jack Roush enough for what he's done for me professionally, but more importantly, what he's done for me personally and all of the things that we've been through together.
"Jack is the guy who gave me a chance when nobody else would in 1987, and for that I've given him 19 years, 19 of the best years of my career in unwavering loyalty, and at this time I have an opportunity to go do something that is going to be a new challenge for me. From this point on this year, I hope that everyone understands that Jack and I are going to be incredibly focused on this chase for the championship. This is the 19th time that he and I have done this together, and it will be the last time that we will do it, and we want to keep our focus on that championship. I hope everyone understands that.
"We talked it over when we wanted to make this announcement. It is something that came up really quick and we wanted to get it done so that we can move forward in chasing this championship. In 2007, I've accepted a position and an opportunity to drive for the 01 U.S. Army car at MB Motorsports to run 22 races and co-drive that car with Regan Smith. This is an opportunity that I'm really excited about. It gives me a chance with great flexibility to do the things that I really loved to do, which is compete on the NEXTEL Cup level and to teach, which are two things that I love dearly. I look forward to representing the U.S. Army, and it's an honor for me to represent the Army and be a part of our soldiers here and abroad."
Q: COMMENT ON CHANGING MANUFACTURERS. WILL IT BE TOUGH FOR YOU?
MARTIN: "I'm a Ford dealer. Twenty-three years (with Ford)."
Q: WAS THERE ANY CONSIDERATION TO RUNNING THE 88 CAR?
MARTIN: "Well, to start with, there's a lot of reason why not. To start with, the first one that comes to mind is they're planning on running that car full time. We didn't discuss splitting the schedule up. We had one brief discussion and that was about driving full time. Believe it or not, I had the opportunity to drive a lot of cars full time, a whole lot of cars full time. That was not something that I wanted to do. At this time I don't have any plans to do a personal services (contract) with Chevrolet or whatever. I do have some work to do with Dan Davis at Ford. I still love truck racing. I would drive a Ford truck in the truck series on a limited basis if I had the opportunity."
Q: WITH THIS POTENTIALLY BEING YOUR LAST CHANCE TO WIN THE NEXTEL CUP CHAMPIONSHIP, DOES THIS INTENSIFY YOUR DETERMINATION?
MARTIN: "It's hard to put in perspective how hard it is to make this Chase. One of the ways is to take first, second and third and make them 11th, 12th and 13th at the cutoff. It's been quite a ride along the way. I don't know if it could get any more intense racing for the championship than it has in the past for me. I would like to see our car right now a little bit faster than what we have been in the last couple of races. We've been a little bit disappointed, and right now with the setups changing and moving around like they are, as much as they are, that could change week to week. If we can turn up the wick have a good run here and go to Charlotte and turn up the wick like we would hope to, we can really make a serious bid for this championship. But, there's seven races left and really what I want to, and what Jack wants to do, is to keep focused on that, on the seven races and making the most of them."
Q: WHY WASN'T THERE SPONSORSHIP AVAILABLE FOR MARK IN THE NO. 6 FORD OR ANOTHER CAR?
GEOFF SMITH , President-Roush Racing: "This goes back to him being 39 years old and starting out with, 'I'm sure I need to retire completely,' to the realization, 'I can still do this. Maybe we're not going to retire and we're going to do something competitive.' You start putting into motion all of the business things that you've got to do to accommodate that. Last year, Jack had been after Mark, 'Mark, are you sure you really want to do this? You're too doggone good and you've still got it.' And it turned out last year with Kurt leaving, that created the moment for us to go back and say, 'Okay, Mark, do you want to do it again?' He was like, 'Yes, I'll do it again, but don't sign me up for more than that.' But, the deal that we had to make at that moment a year ago excluded continuation of Mark in our Cup programs. That was one part of it. Then, the second part of it was our flexibility to create a program ended in the fall of last year when we were precluded from any additional teams. We were really done at that point in time."
MARTIN: "Which really would have been necessary to have done a limited program. You have to understand, the 6 car is a championship-contending team. I have too much respect for what we built there to ask, 'Can we tear that down? Can we split that up and take that away from the program?' Number two, there were long-range plans. There was a plan there that was set into effect and one of the things that really stood in our way, we couldn't create a program that fit what I wound up really wanting to do."
Q: HOW IRONIC IS IT THAT YOU COULD WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR AND NOT WIN A RACE?
MARTIN: "It's pretty nice to be sitting in third right now. There are seven races to go and we've been very competitive this year. There have been a good portion of this year where we have been faster on the race track than any other year. But, in these last seven races, we're really going to have to turn it up in some of those seven aces. I am not going to miss the chance to savor such a great honor as I've had to be in The Chase again in what could be my last try. It certainly wouldn't happen in '07, obviously; we're talking about a limited schedule. I'm not missing a chance to savor everything that we've been able to accomplish and to say thanks to the fans for all of their support for all of these years and to enjoy it with the people that made it happen."
Q: TALK ABOUT THE DECISION TO RUN A LIMITED TRUCK SCHEDULE AS OPPOSED TO A FULL TRUCK SCHEDULE, WHICH WOULD BE ABOUT THE SAME NUMBER OF RACES AND THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP?
MARTIN: "Well, first of all, 19 years of racing for a Cup championship has gotten a little more intense every year, and I don't know for positive that that's what I want to do right now is run for any championship in 2007. That's what Dan Davis and Ford wanted to do and wanted their participation wanted to be, and obviously that's what Jack would like to see. For me, I want to race and have fun. I'm not sure that I'm done with the truck racing. I still love truck racing, but after having the great seasons that I had in '04, '05 and '06, I'm not finished, and I told you all that I'm not finished NEXTEL Cup racing. For one year I'm not going to run the full schedule. After I sit home and watch on TV the first race, whichever it may it be - Bristol or Martinsville - in '07, I'll bet you I can tell you. I'll bet it will take one race for me to know what it is I want to do, but I look forward to that. We haven't decided for sure if it will be Bristol or it will be Martinsville, but it will be one of those two races, I'll probably be home on my couch with the TiVo and the remote control and I'll be watching it. I'll betcha I'll have some more insight after that day."
JACK ROUSH , Owner-Roush Racing: "I've been chasing my race cars and helping drivers and shuffling crew around the highways and byway all over North America for over 40 years and this is the end of a very, very proud chapter for me. The 20 years that I spent with Mark, Mark spent with me and Roush Racing, considering the brief time we negotiated in 2007 getting reads for 2008, have been the proudest chapter of my racing career and will look back on it as a period of time that really defined what we were and gave us a chance to establish the mores and values that we'd like to be known for today, certainly that we represent for our sponsors. Mark is my dearest friend.
"Outside of my immediate family, Mark is my go-to guy whenever I've got a problem or I've got a concern, I'll give Mark a call and he will commiserate with me, and I do the same with him. I don't expect that to stop. I'm without tears today. The day when we had to face the facts that there was an end that was imminent, I guess it was over a year ago, I almost couldn't contain myself. Mark and I have had a great time together and I certainly wish him well and all of the things that he'll do forward. I think Matt (Martin) will have a great career in the business if he chooses to do that, and as he goes on I'll watch with some interest, but from a safe distance to see how that evolves."
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE NO. 6 FORD F-150 NEXT SEASON?
ROUSH: "We're re-evaluating everything, everybody that we've got in the inventory and looking at some people that aren't driving trucks today. I've got one or two names that I'm going to run by Geoff (Smith) and we're going to think about some things that are outside the box, but we certainty want to face off against Toyota going forward for the image in that market. If you look at what truly is an American vehicle, the trucks certainly are that. Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge have been the mainstay of all of the passion that has gone with the people that have had those vehicles for the last several decades. I'm anxious to be involved in that, call it a conflict if you will, and I want to have a competitive, championship-level truck program for Ford if there's any way next year. Tell them what you think, Geoff."
SMITH: "Specifically, we have manufacturer support for a minimum of two truck teams. We have sponsorship support in place for the one we just announced and we have other sponsorship support that we're very close to for our second one, and Jack is going to need to work on the driver selection. We're good to go and good to stay in the truck series."
ROUSH: "Mark certainly made a tremendous contribution by being a conduit from the Busch Series, as well as the Cup Series, into the truck series. He carried the technology and he carried the vision he had of what the trucks need to be doing in comparison to where we were with our cars. It wouldn't have been possible to be standing where we are with the truck that we've got, that we think we will compete with next year, if he hadn't participated, and for that Mark will get our thanks no matter how it works out."
Q: HOW MUCH A RELIEF IS IT TO MAKE THE ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY?
MARTIN: "It is, but this has not been a long time coming. This is something that has moved pretty fast. We've been in a stalled-out mode to some degree and this happened pretty fast from concept to announcement. We're talking about less than two weeks really. I'm ready to get down to business. That's why I went over some prepared notes because I wanted to make sure that everyone understood that we want to get back to the business. That's why we wanted to get it out. We felt like we owed it to you guys, especially, to get the story out and get it set and let us go back to work so we can focus on our racing."
-credit: ford racing