Mark Martin, No. 1 U.S. Army Monte Carlo SS, currently leads the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series point standings. He talked with members of the motorsports media at Atlanta Motor Speedway about not racing at Bristol and his plans for the rest of the ...
Mark Martin, No. 1 U.S. Army Monte Carlo SS, currently leads the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series point standings. He talked with members of the motorsports media at Atlanta Motor Speedway about not racing at Bristol and his plans for the rest of the season.
ON HOW HE'LL DO THIS WEEKEND: "I think all the drivers really look forward to coming to Atlanta, all the ones that I know of anyway for sure. It's just one of the best places to race, kind of like a huge Rockingham that we miss having the opportunity to race from the very bottom white line of the race track all the way up to the wall is Atlanta and you can do it anywhere in between whatever your car is working like or whatever you can manage to get done. It's a place that we love to come to, I especially love to come to. I'm very excited about driving our U.S. Army Chevy. As everyone knows they've really put me in great race cars this year. Those guys are really getting it done on pit road winning all three of the pit stop challenges this year and the final one from Homestead makes them four in a row. I'm so proud of those guys. To work with Ryan Pemberton, one of the most sought after crew chiefs in the garage. He was about 18 years old in the photograph of my first Nextel Cup win, standing back there with a Strohs Light uniform on. It's cool when I walk past the car that is on display from that race and the big photographs behind it and there's Ryan. So it's cool to work with him. He's a young man in my eyes because he was a kid at that time but believe me after working with him three races, I told him after the race Sunday I won't ever question anything he tells me again. He is the man. It's pretty awesome and it's about time they get the recognition they deserve. I guess you can say I'm excited about being here."
ON VOLUNTARILY ENDING HIS STREAK OF 621 CONSECUTIVE STARTS AFTER SUNDAY: "Gosh, I have a lot of thoughts on that. One is when they asked me when I hit 500 what I thought and when I hit 600 what I thought. When I hit 600 what I thought was I'd been doing it a really long time in some really good cars because I didn't miss the show any of those times along that way. It's a lot easier to do when I know I'm driving that 01 car and I have the support from everyone and I know that I don't have to walk away from the sport that I love, the people that I love, the fans, the whole thing. I love what I do and I'm not walking away from it. I'm just taking a break."
ON THE TOP-35 QUALIFYING FORMAT AND SOME GOOD TEAMS BEING SENT HOME: "You know we've seen the competition mass grow and shrink over the years. There was a time when it was as big as it is now I think at one time a few years ago. This is where everybody wants to be (but) just not everyone can participate. That's a shame but that's where we are. This is where everybody in racing would like to be and there's a lot of people trying to be a part of it right now and there's only room for 43." Contacts: "I can't say. All I know is that you need to be locked in. You need that. You need it. I'm not so sure you need 43. I'm not so sure that you don't need them all that way. I don't know. Believe me, if I was running NASCAR it would be in a mess right now. It wouldn't be where it is right now. All I can tell you is that for the people that make the commitment to do all these races they need to know that they can race and I support that part of the aspect. It's a real complex question you are asking and it's really a difficult situation and I'm not real good at it. All I know is from a competitor standpoint and knowing Jack Roush and looking from an owner standpoints that there need to be guarantees that you are in."
ON BEING ABLE TO TAKE IT ONE RACE AT A TIME WITH THE OPTIONS HE HAS WITH HIS TEAM TO SEE IF HE'LL RUN THE NEXT RACE. HAVE YOU AND THE TEAM TALKED ABOUT TAKING IT ONE RACE AT A TIME? "I'm not going to Bristol and I'm to going to Martinsville. I will review my second-half schedule sometime. We can do exactly what you said the only thing is I'm not going to Bristol. That we know but I will look at other races. I am an incredibly loyal guy and circumstances may come along. I know there are a small number of races that when I laid my original schedule out that I would love to do that I gave to Regan in the second half because I was trying to prepare him for full-time Cup. Now that we're assured that he gets to race Cup, whether I race or not, they will put Regan in a fourth car then it's possible that some of those races that I really wanted to do in the second half I could possibly do. We can put to rest the Bristol thing. There is certain little once-in-a-while mixed emotions. OK, I have done 621. You can make all the arguments that you want about changing your mind but the bottom line is that I'm going to take a break. I need to take a break. I've committed to take a break. My family and I are committed to it. My team agreed to it. We made our deal and we're going to carry it out as far as the Bristol and Martinsville thing goes and then of course then there's no points to ever be talked again for the rest of the year from my standpoint unless something crazy was to happen. We can take it from the races that I really want to do and that make sense."
DO YOU WANT THE TALK ABOUT YOU CONTINUING FOR A FULL SEASON TO JUST STOP? CAN YOU QUANTITY HOW MUCH IT HAS TO DO WITH THE FACT THAT YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PAY THAT BET TO JEFF BURTON? "I don't know for sure if he bet that house, but that's a big house, big house he's talking about. But it's Matt Kenseth that's going to have to give that $200 up and that's going to hurt him. In fact I want a picture of that tear coming off his face. That's going to get him. You know he called me. I'm flying my airplane myself now and I'm trying to get it taxied out to take it off and my phone is ringing and it's Matt after race. He told some goofy stuff like 'Hey, I would never passed you on the last lap but since you're not running all the races and don't need the points, I did. But otherwise I would have never passed you on the last lap like that.' I had to leave Saturday night. I went over to his coach and was hanging out. He was relentless. I finally got up and left. I had to leave because he was starting to almost sway me he was working on me so hard. I said 'I got to go. I'll see you guys.' Seriously life is really good for me. I'm so happy. I'm so proud to be a part of this team and see them getting the results they are and it's all good. I don't think that this is a time for anyone to be disappointed. I think we should all be happy and encouraged by where we are today and what we have to look forward to.
"I'll tell you guys there's other things to talk about. Seriously there's other things to talk about that might even be more fun. I'll be happy to get that behind. But the biggest thing is that I love what I do and I want to continue to love it. There's been times in the last few years that I didn't love what I was doing and I don't want to ever feel that way again. I don't want to ever feel that way again about something that I love with the kind of passion that I have. So I need a break."
DOES IT FEEL GOOD TO BE COMING BACK TO FAMILIAR GROUND HERE IN ATLANTA? "It really does. It may turn out and backfire on us. I spent the whole weekend convincing my crew that I would do a better job for them here than I was going to do for them at Vegas which I proved by qualifying poorer than the car I had. I had a better car than what I qualified and I said 'See I told you I'm not that good here under these conditions but I'll make it up to you when I get to Atlanta.' So I certainly hope I can make good on my promise. This is going to be fun. This is a great race track and I'm having a ball. My team is on a roll. I just hope we can continue to have the same result. I also want everybody to know how incredibly proud I am of Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin. I know Joe didn't get a chance to show what they were capable of last Sunday but certainly Sterling did. I'm as proud of his performance last week and probably as disappointed as they were with their failure but it's good. It's not just the 01. The whole organization is really getting there. We're getting there as an organization and I believe that there's a lot more hard work in front of us."
WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION WHEN PEOPLE KEEP ASKING YOU THE SAME QUESTION OVER AND OVER? "The only thing is I hope the fans don't get sick of hearing about it, which thank goodness is going to come to an end here shortly because I have great relationship with the fans and I'm not doing it, you guys are. You have to also remember that I love you guys and y'all are a very important of my career and of my life. If I don't see you guys then my like changes OK. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to see guys much anymore after the announcement at Talladega in October so even if it is the same irritating question over and over again, at least y'all are talking to me and that's a good thing. No, I understand it's a big deal. There can be a case made that I've waffled quite a bit on all this. My case that I can make says I really haven't that much. All I really ever really said was is that a full-time schedule was not out there in front of me and it wound up being in '06 after all. But that was due to circumstances. It wasn't like I just woke up one day and said 'Man, I want to do this again.' It was something that I filled in for an organization that I loved and had passion for and had helped build and been a part of from the beginning and didn't want to see struggle to fill a hole. Now we're just carrying out the plan and we'll just kind of take things one thing at a time. We're going to skip the Bristol thing and I'm sure the same thing will go for Martinsville and then we'll take it one thing at time. I've learned to never say never in this business so I know there's some races that I don't have on the schedule for whatever reason might come up. I couldn't tell you why. Right now there's 23 and I'm looking forward to having a couple of weekends off."
YOU MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY TALLADEGA IS NOT ONE OF THE PLACES YOU'LL GO BACK TO. IS THAT STILL ACCURATE? "Yeah, that is accurate. It is not on the schedule just as Bristol and Martinsville are not on the schedule. Back to what I was saying before and I kind of forgot, I want everybody to understand that there are some things in my life that I don't want to completely pass by. I feel like there's some things I want to do that I just can't get to under the current scenario. There's a number of things. I'd like to do a little bit more for my sponsors. I certainly want to spend a little bit more time with my family. But I also want to have a little bit more time for the fans as well. That being said, there are rare occasions when we can just hang with the fans for almost unlimited amount of time because you're always on a rush. You can stop for one minute or five minutes or you might be at an autograph session for an hour and a half but Easter weekend where Friday and Saturday of that weekend, I can spend a good solid eight hours a day hanging with the fans doing more than signing one autograph and shoving it back to them and moving to the next person. That's one of things that I look forward to doing along with some quality sponsor things with the Army and a little bit of quality time with my family as well. You just can't take that kind of time when you're on the run all the time. So one of the most fun and exciting events of the year for me was doing that in Batesville where I bring other guys in like Tony Stewart will come. That will be the fourth Nextel Cup champion that I've had to my hometown. That means a lot to me. It probably doesn't mean anything to some people but if you think about it, that's a big deal. Batesville is a small town. Some little things can be more on the agenda than just how fast did you run today or getting to the race track or how did you finish or what's the next thing on the schedule. I want to have enough time to slow down just a little bit and do some of things that are different and move them up the priority list."
ON POSSIBLY BEING THE FIRST NASCAR DRIVER TO SAY HE LOVES THE MEDIA: "I do. That's true though. I believe you see it. I hope you believe it."
DID THE NEW FORMAT OF THE CHASE AFFECT YOUR DECISION FOR THIS SEASON? "No, that doesn't play into the equation. The back breaker on the whole thing is three weekends off from Daytona to Thanksgiving and one of those goes to the Batesville deal. Seriously there just is no time in this business if you capitalize on every opportunity that's there for you. Sure I could have slowed down and not do a lot of the things that were available but that's not me. I do everything that I can possibly do. I do the deals with the sponsors. I do the deals with the media. I do everything that I can physically do so it's basically the schedule. I love what I am doing and I love driving that car so I would drive it every weekend if it weren't for the schedule. It's solely I got to take a break and have some time."
SINCE YOU AREN'T RACING NEXT WEEKEND, WHERE WILL YOU BE AND WHAT WILL YOU BE DOING? "Saturday I'll be at Lake City, Columbia Motorsports Park with two late models. Ricky Carmichael in one and Matt Martin in the other one. So in a sense, I'm still on the job especially Ricky. It's my charge to get Ricky prepared to graduate from late models in Florida to (tape inaudible) Cup, Truck and then Busch and so on. This will be Ricky's first race in a late model and that's what I'm going to be doing next weekend. And then next weekend I hope to just have off. I hope to just be on the couch with the remote control in my hand because I can use a little of that too. One other thing, talking about everything that's going on. I don't usually sit around and watch cars race and wish I was out there but those trucks running out there are driving me crazy. I love these trucks so much. So I'm definitely going to be working toward trying to fill in and do more trucks in the future. Everybody knows that I like those things but I did feel that. When they started running those things around here I thought 'Gosh, I wish I was out there.' That is one thing that I'm going to work on, try to fill a little bit more trucks in to the combination mix of what I'm doing going forward."
-credit: gm racing