Mark Martin, driver of the AAA Ford Fusion, is in second place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 59 points. He spoke about his season thus far and the reason Ford and Roush Racing have been so ...
Mark Martin, driver of the AAA Ford Fusion, is in second place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 59 points. He spoke about his season thus far and the reason Ford and Roush Racing have been so successful at Texas Motor Speedway.
MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE HOW YOUR SEASON IS UNFOLDING SO FAR? "So far it's really been good, but I think it's only been five or six races. There is a lot of time in there for things to change, but so far our AAA Fusion has been awesome. The guys have been fantastic and I'm having the time of my life."
YOU'RE 12 YEARS OLDER THAN ANYONE ELSE IN THE TOP 10. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT? "I'm old (laughter). That's a problem there. I see the same thing. I look around and see all these kids out here doing this stuff, but I've really stayed committed all through my career and I've stay committed to my physical fitness program. Most of all the support from AAA and Pat Tryson and everybody at Roush Racing gives me great race cars so that I can get out there and try to give them a little bit of competition."
WHY IS IT A PROBLEM? "It's a lot harder work when you get my age to get it done. We're working real hard to get it done and, like I said, I'm having the time of my life."
HOW IS IT HARDER? "I don't know. You'll have to ask some scientist or something. They could probably explain it better than I could."
IS IT NICE TO COME TO A PLACE WHERE YOU RUN SO WELL AT? "We really feel good right now about where our team is and our cars and everything. We love this race track. We had a great run the last time we were here and hopefully we can come back and do the same. This is the time of my life. I never really dreamed that it would be, but I'm sure that a couple years down the road I'll be able to look back at 2006 and say that was the good old days."
ROUSH HAS FIVE WINS IN 10 RACES HERE. WHY SO DOMINANT? "There's a lot of coincidence that goes along with racing, but Roush Racing works really hard on their cars. They've got great crew chiefs and, in my opinion, they get the best drivers in the business. Texas is a race track where that kind of stuff really shows."
HOW DOES AGE AFFECT A DRIVER? "I don't know. You need to ask a doctor. They can explain it to you better than I can. I don't know."
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ADVANTAGE OF EXPERIENCE OR DISADVANTAGES? "The advantage is that hopefully you make fewer mistakes in judgment with more experience. That's an advantage. The disadvantage is that you know better than to do some of the things that you might have gotten away with as a younger one, so it's different."
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE YOUR SKILLS NOW TO 12 YEARS AGO? "I could get it done better 12 years ago."
WHY IS THAT? "I didn't even know I could wreck (laughter). Now I know it's a possibility. Things are different. Everybody matures at a different rate and maybe I was a slow one in getting there, but things change. In order to be a fierce competitor, you have to have an incredible fire and desire and drive and be willing to make every possible sacrifice and compromise in your life to be able to get out there and get it done and that's what I've done and that's what I still do. That's why I'm looking forward to opening the next chapter."
WHERE DID YOU FIND THAT DESIRE TO KEEP GOING? "I didn't know if I was gonna be able to find it. I swear I didn't. I went to Daytona. I kept putting everybody off in December. I put them off in January with those questions and I was really concerned that I wouldn't be able to find it, but I went out in Daytona and did my job. I had a great car and a great team and it really felt good and felt right. When I slip down in the seat of the 6 car, it feels like your favorite spot on the couch or the recliner. It's the right place for me. We went to California and we had an awesome car and effort and the momentum has just sort of built from there. Now I'm in the middle of this thing and I'm looking around and saying, 'This is what 32 years of all that hard work and desire have got me.' Jack Roush and the AAA team are giving me everything that I could have ever dreamed of having. As of right now, this is the best it's ever been. That can change Sunday, but as of right now this is the best it's ever been. I'm committed. My family is committed. Arlene and Matt and everyone is behind me and we're committed to fighting this thing right down to the last day in November."
DID YOU HEAR WHAT DENNY HAMLIN SAID AFTER MARTINSVILLE? SHOULD A ROOKIE BE ABLE TO SPEAK OUT THAT WAY? "It shouldn't matter if you're a rookie or not and Denny shouldn't be treated on the race track differently from me. Denny and I have had a conversation since and I made it clear to Denny that everything that I've done to him on the race track I would have done to Rusty Wallace, who I respect as much or more than anyone in the garage, or Dale Jarrett. My point was, 'Don't bring up the rookie thing again,' because he's done a fabulous job. He's been incredibly competitive and respectful and fair on the race track and the rub that we have had came from he and I not knowing each other's style."
HE SAID HE'S LEARNED FROM YOU AND THAT YOUR STYLES ARE DIFFERENT. "My style is different. What happened was that it was forced too soon. We didn't have an opportunity to race around each other long enough or gradual enough. He's up there fighting for a top spot. He and I are fighting for top spots right away in his Cup career and you'll have that. It's just an accelerated learning curve and he's having to learn everyone's at the same time -- not just one or two. For most of us out there, we have to learn one or two new guys a year -- not 40. Denny's having to learn 40 and trying to assimilate that over the course of 10 races. I have the greatest respect for Denny. For anyone who can be incredibly competitive and not cause a lot of problems at the same time, they deserve the ultimate respect and, of course, he fills that bill."
YOU'VE EXPRESSED SOME CONCERNS OVER THE NUMBER OF CAUTIONS. HOW CAN THAT BE ADDRESSED SO THERE'S MORE GREEN FLAG RACING? "I can't be sure that the fans really want to see that much more green flag racing because everytime you get a green flag run somebody blurts out, 'boring.' So I don't know about that. I just like the old school racing. I like it to be about the race and not the entertainment and if it happens to be entertaining than so be it. I'm more toward that style. The more cautions you have the more wrecks you're gonna have, that's for sure. That's in NASCAR's ballpark, but if I was up there controlling that thing I'd leave the green flag out when gloves are on the race track and drink bottles and spring rubbers and several other items. It would be tough luck if you ran over it and it flew up in the air or something. A lot of that stuff really isn't that dangerous."
DO THE RACES FEEL TOO MUCH STOP AND GO TO YOU? "Ever since the accident with Kasey Kahne at Dover, where there was a smoking car and Kasey spun leading the race, it's all changed since then. That was old school NASCAR because they didn't see a problem so they didn't throw a flag. Unfortunately, that one time cost Kasey Kahne his first win. Since then they have always erred way on the safe side. Once in a while that's gonna be a good thing, but a lot of times it brings out cautions that you wouldn't necessarily have had."
DO YOU FEEL IT'S A STOP AND GO ISSUE? "I hate racing like that. I raced 20 years where you worked really hard on long runs. There were green flag stops. If you got beat for 20 laps, the last 40 you could wear them out. To me, that's racing because the definition of racing was something that I learned from experience and now these kids don't know the difference but I do. It's different now than it was then. It's 10 laps and a caution, 10 laps and a caution, 10 laps and a caution. That's a whole different thing and it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I'm not that good at 10 laps at a time."
YOU MENTIONED TALKING WITH DENNY. HAS IT ALWAYS BEEN THAT WAY AS FAR AS DRIVERS ADDRESSING ISSUES WITH OTHERS? "I don't really see any change in that. The only real difference now and then is that it was rarely covered and now it's covered. There are cameras and all that stuff, but for the most part, it's not much different than it used to be."
YOU HEARD STORIES IN THE PAST OF GUYS TAKING SWINGS AT EACH OTHER. "Well, we had a black eye at the airport last year and a shove at Bristol, so I don't know if that's a whole lot different than Cale and Donnie at Daytona or Darrell Waltrip saying, 'Meet me at the Kmart parking lot,' or whatever he said. It's all the same."