Charlotte II: Martin - Ford Thursday interview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is third in the Chase for the Nextel Cup going into this weekend's race. Martin spoke about the Chase and other issues before Thursday's practice session. MARK MARTIN-6-AAA Ford Fusion YOU SAID...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is third in the Chase for the Nextel Cup going into this weekend's race. Martin spoke about the Chase and other issues before Thursday's practice session.

MARK MARTIN-6-AAA Ford Fusion

YOU SAID THAT IF YOU WERE STILL IN THE HUNT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER TALLADEGA THAT YOU COULD WIN THIS THING. CAN YOU WIN THIS THING NOW? "Well, we got through Talladega and we're sitting good. Right now, I hope that we have the performance that we're capable of. We're going to have some strong competition, but we're sitting pretty good. We'll just have to see what happens. If we can string together a six-race hot streak, we'd win this championship, without question."

YOU ARE THE ONLY DRIVER IN THE CHASE WITH NO DNFS THIS YEAR. "Well, part of that is luck. Mechanically, this is true. It's been a long time since we've had a mechanical failure. But, with today's mechanics, a lot of times what really causes a DNF is a wreck that you can't fix. We've had some wrecks that my guys have been able to fix and get back out, so it isn't like we haven't had bad races. It still makes us proud. We have mechanically been very sound and our guys are incredible. They've been able to put back together some wrecks that I didn't think they could."

TALK ABOUT YOUR ABILITY TO AVOID MAYHEM? "That comes with time and experience. If you haven't been bitten before, and you're incredibly talented, as some of these guys are, you don't get bitten very often by putting yourself in positions that are risky. But, you do sooner or later. I assess the high-risk situations and try to do best I can with them, and that comes from a lot of years of experience."

YOU SEEM TO BE HAVING MORE FUN THIS YEAR WITH THE CHASE. "Well, it's incredibly fun. This has been one of the best years of my career, mostly because of the fans and the fans' response has been overwhelming. Second of all, getting a chance to work with AAA on teen driving has been really rewarding for me, and important. Third of all, this team is great. It's awesome to come to work every day and work with these guys. And, lastly, it's been a great performance on the race track, and it's a privilege to be in contention for the championship. We have six races to go, and we've got a great shot at it. We're 10 points out of first place right now. So, with six to go, that's pretty incredible. No matter what happens, we'll enjoy it."

WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON DAVID RAGAN? "Well, I've known David since he was even more of a kid than he is today. He is a really fine young man. He's an incredibly talented young race car driver who has reached a level that is astonishing based on the amount of experience that he has. In other words, he hasn't had the experience that a lot of drivers have at his age, and he's already getting it done. He comes from a great family, and that's what makes him such a good, solid person, and I'm going to be watching him with great enthusiasm."

WHICH OF THE FINAL SIX TRACKS MAKE YOU NERVOUS? "I would say all of them with a little less emphasis on Martinsville, but all of them. Martinsville, the last few times we've been there, we've run well, so I don't dread Martinsville by any means. We should have won Phoenix last time. You can't predict one from the other, but we sure ran good there the first race, so I have great optimism going back there again, and these other race tracks are right up my alley."

BECAUSE THEY ARE MILE-AND-A-HALFS? "And we excel at tracks like that, handling race tracks with some size to them."

HOW WILL YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP HOPES IF YOU COME OUT OF MARTINSVILLE IN THE SAME POSITION YOU'RE AT NOW? "I'll feel good, but with Martinsville, it will go from six to four to go, and obviously the closer you get to the end, and you're still in contention, you're in better shape than ever. But, it can still go bad and come back to us. It could go bad at Martinsville and still come back to us. There's still a lot more races than people realize, but it is an honor to be in contention in my last round in the 6 car. It's been a blast, and I've been having fun like I told you I was going to do. The fans have supported me this year like I've never dreamed. We're having a good time."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT NEXTEL CUP RACING THAT MAKES YOU NOT READY TO WALK AWAY FROM IT TOTALLY? "Because I can still get it done and I didn't think I would be able to."

EVEN TWO YEARS AGO? "I didn't think I'd be able to. In 2003, I was sure that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with these guys any more. We had a tough season in '03 and finished 17th in the points. But, what I've learned since then is that I didn't have a fast car that year. And, I've also felt a lot of love from the fans. I've felt a lot of respect from the competitors, and I made a decision that I wouldn't come back full time after '05, and then I made a decision after Kurt left and they needed me to come back for Roush Racing, but especially for Jack Roush, and even more for Pat Tryson and this team. During that time, I saw a window of opportunity to be able to do what I really wanted to do, which is compete on a limited basis in Nextel Cup in what I hope to be a competitive car. That would be the dream come true for me. I was chasing some dreams in 1974, and today I'm chasing the last bit of those dreams."

WOULD NASCAR BE DOING A FAVOR TO THE DRIVERS TO SHORTEN THE SEASON? "Yeah, but they'd be hurting the fans, though. I'm a fan, too. Remember, I want to watch some of these things. It's a tough grind, but the fans love it, and I'm a fan. When I'm not driving in '07, I'm going to be on the couch with the remote control telling everyone to be quiet and let me listen. I'm a big fan of this sport and I just think it's for the younger and the strong at heart. When you get to be my age, if you've been doing it 20 or 30 years, and your family is not gone yet - my son's not - you start to need to have a little bit, and phase out rather than dropping completely out. I would miss you guys, seriously. I would desperately miss the competitors, and I would also miss the kind of fan response that I've gotten the last couple of years if it happened all at once. I could do it all at once, but I feel better about doing it in a step. I will know a lot more about how I feel about all of this after the first race in '07 that I sit at home, which will probably be Bristol."

WHY HAS THE FAN SUPPORT CAUGHT YOU OFF GUARD? "It just feels like it's grown, but maybe I'm just noticing it more. It feels like it's been stronger and more passionate this year than ever. I've been around longer than most of these guys. There aren't many out here, and I've been fortunate enough to have success pretty much all of the way through, and the fans have just shown me a lot of love. I don't know. There are a lot more fans than there were 10 years ago. It seems like they've shown respect because they know that I've been here so long. Even if they're not my fans, if they're Dale Junior fans, but they appreciate the fact that I raced against Dale's dad and knew Junior when he was this high, for example, and they respect that. I might not be their number one guy, but there is some kind of kinship for the fans that have been around that aren't brand new fans. They feel much like the competitors do when we walk through the garage and we see one of the guys that was here in the early 80s, and we've known since then, and we just feel some kind of kinship that is stronger than the guy that we've only known for two years."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jack Roush , Mark Martin