Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is seventh in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, but trails leader Matt Kenseth by only 96 points. He held a Q&A session Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway. MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford ...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is seventh in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings, but trails leader Matt Kenseth by only 96 points. He held a Q&A session Friday morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THE WEEK? "I've been really looking forward to coming to Atlanta. Obviously, if you look back at our stats, the runs that we've had here lately have been spectacular and we believe that we can win this weekend. We also feel that we need to win this weekend. We are obviously still in the chase and we won't give up no matter what happens between now and the last lap of Homestead. We won't give up for anything, but certainly we need to win this win. If we win this one, the race is on for sure. We're excited about it, but, you know what, I look at all the guys in the chase and I think every one of them thinks that not only do they have a good shot at this one, but they would say that they need to win it. It's pretty incredible competition this year for the chase and I'm just proud to be a part of it. I feel like I'm living a dream."
HOW DID YOU FEEL COMING OUT OF MARTINSVILLE AND SEEING YOU'RE STILL IN IT? "We are. If you look at it historically -- last year and the year before -- we were about twice as far back as we are and we finished fourth in both of those, so, certainly, you can look at it from a lot of directions and find the positive in it. The big gift was that we knocked a hole in our radiator at Martinsville with 25 laps to go and it was miraculous, even though it wasn't a big hole, that we were able to finish that race. That should have been devastating to us, but we actually gained. Even with the bad luck that we had, we managed to make a gain. Obviously the race is on. Obviously we don't know what's gonna happen. I told you guys that I was gonna have fun with this thing no matter what and that's where I'm at right now. I'm not stressed out about whether or not we will win this championship. I'm focused on getting the job done every week and so is my team, and I'm really happy to be a part of it."
IF 5 OR 6 GUYS ARE THIS CLOSE GOING INTO HOMESTEAD, HOW DO YOU APPROACH SOMETHING LIKE THAT? DO YOU GO INTO IT DIFFERENTLY? "I really don't think so. You look at things differently as a competitor than you do as a fan. I'm fixing to be a fan of the championship. I'm four races away, so I'm close enough to being a fan to say that that's what we want. We want eight of the 10 to have a crack at the championship going into Homestead from a fan's point of view. From a competitor's point of view, I would want to see it different. But, lucky for me, where we're sitting right now, I'm in seventh but I still have a shot. I like that. I like the opportunity of us having that. I wouldn't race any differently. You have to score the most points you possibly can to even make the chase. When I say I'm happy to be a part of this thing, you need to put it in perspective. You need to go and talk to Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards -- first, second and third from last year -- and ask do they think if they were a part of the chase would they be happy. And they would tell you, 'Yeah, I'd be happy even if I was eighth. I'd still have a chance.' I think from a fan's point of view this is a really good one. Sometimes you have runaways and sometimes you don't, and, as of right now, the race is really on for all 10, but especially for the first eight. I still feel that the whole 10 are still in it with four to go. That's pretty incredible but that's what the fans deserve."
MATT SAID THE CHASE WAS SLOPPY LAST WEEK. HOW DO YOU VIEW THE CHASE SO FAR? "First of all, that's a good question and I'd like to say that Matt Kenseth was misunderstood. A journalist that's really close to this thing would have been less likely to misunderstand him in that. I think that Matt was speaking from his point of view and his car. They have been slightly sloppy. What he was saying was, 'I'm frustrated. We haven't run good and we're leading the points and I don't feel good about how we're running.' That's basically, in a sense, what Matt was trying to say. Now look, Jeff Burton has performed. He had a flat tire and a broken motor. That doesn't mean he's sloppy, that means those guys have been getting it done -- for example. Another one you can look at and say Jimmie Johnson, he had trouble and beyond that trouble they have been getting it done. Matt was frustrated because he hasn't had any disasters, but hasn't been able to really get it done like he did early in the season. Those guys were laying it down. Wow. He's frustrated right now and I think he was misread in his statement. To answer your question, of course, at this point in time, mistakes are gonna be more critical. Now, if you hadn't have had them earlier, then you could have them later, but so many of us have either underperformed to championship standards -- the 17 has performed but maybe not to his standards or not what he thinks the championship needs to be -- and he's got four races to go blow everybody off in and still feel good about it. Or, if you've had trouble already, you don't need to be having more trouble. A lot of teams have already had two races with trouble out of six, so that's pretty big. It's gonna be hard to have three troublesome races and win this thing, obviously, but I think when it all comes down to it the race is on and this is what the fans really deserve. One year you're gonna have a team that has no troubles for 10 races and everybody is gonna be screaming, 'Oh, it's a runaway. You've got to do something about it. Yada, yada, yada.' You know what I'm saying? But this is one of those years where it's gonna be more fierce and I would love to see it come down to Homestead as closer and closer than it is now for many of us -- for six of us or even eight. I would love to see it continue to do that for the fans because I'm looking at this slightly different because I'm only four races away from being a fan. I'll still be a competitor, but I'm not planning on being a competitor for this championship chase. I could see both sides of it now, where always before I didn't even want to see the fan's side of it. I just was a competitor and was interested in what was good for me."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO DAVID RAGAN AT ALL AND WERE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT THE DECISION OF HIM NOT BEING APPROVED TO RUN HERE? "Yes, I was more than surprised. I don't know the word to use -- shocked or dumbfounded -- disbelief. I actually did not believe it. I thought that the people that were telling me were exaggerating, which sometimes happens in this business, so I had to check it closer (laughing). You know what? The old saying, 'What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,' David Ragan is an incredibly fine person. I'm a huge fan of him and he is also a strong young man and this will make him stronger and it will make him better. I am surprised. On the other hand, I will say -- and he'll probably say the same thing -- that he could have handled Martinsville better and what happened at Martinsville as a whole did not help him with this. But let's don't forget that we all made mistakes -- we still do -- but we all made probably more early on into our deal. We need to be careful about criticizing. I'm not gonna criticize him because I think he's gonna be one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR and he's gonna do an incredible job in the 6 car. He's a fine young man and you guys will see over the years what a wonderful person he is and a great driver. That's my take on the whole thing."
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE WAY THE CHASE IS DEVELOPING? "What happens is, and you see this a lot, what happens is people seem to tend to forget everything that ever happened before and they don't seem to have any vision beyond today either. Yes, this one -- the reason people said you couldn't afford to have a bad race or you could maybe have one is because one year that's gonna be the truth. One year a very competitive car -- like all the top 10 are, every one of them, you don't have one in there that's not running good enough, including however Matt Kenseth feels about how they've run, they're still running good -- and you're gonna have one that has no problems for 10 races. You're also gonna have a year like this and, if it goes long enough, you're gonna have a year that's even crazier than this one. It's gonna be crazier meaning one is gonna lead one race and the next race somebody else is gonna be leading, and you never thought that would have happened. You never thought Kasey Kahne was gonna be back in the running for this championship and regardless of what other people do -- from where he's sitting with three mile-and-a-halves sitting in front of him and their past history, if they don't miss it on one of those three, they stand the potential to gain that many points flat out on the race track without help from problems. It is what it is, but one of the things that always gets me is that people flip out when you have a race -- they call a race today that has 12 cars on the lead lap at the end boring. If you look at the history of this thing, lots of times there was two or three cars on the lead lap and nobody ever said that was boring 15 years ago, number one. Number two, if they'll just wait -- instead of tearing the track up -- if they'll just wait until the next race, that might be one of those three-inch photo finishes. Races aren't always the same. You have great races and you have runaways. That's the way it's always been and no matter what standard you use to measure anything, that standard will always change. That relates to the championship as well. I think this is a good one. Maybe it's good only because I've had two races that were troublesome for us, but I think it's a good one because I still see it from a fan's point of view. This is a very exciting championship because you really don't know what's gonna happen and these last four races are gonna be incredibly interesting. And it has people's attention because now they know that you're not safe. They've seen it in this chase -- that you're not safe. They looked at Jeff Burton and said that Jeff Burton looked like he had this thing. Now Matt Kenseth might look like he has this thing, except everybody knows now from watching this chase and how much trouble there's been in it that no one is safe and it's not gonna be safe until the race is over at Homestead."
-credit: ford racing