This Week in Ford Racing October 8, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, will be looking for the season sweep at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday after winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Martin's victory in the...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 8, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, will be looking for the season sweep at Lowe's Motor Speedway on Sunday after winning the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Martin's victory in the season's longest race extended an impressive streak that has seen Roush Racing win at least one of the races in Charlotte for five straight seasons. A look at that streak, along with comments from Martin, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth and car owner Jack Roush, follows:
ROUSH RACING WINS AT CHARLOTTE (1998-2002)
1998 -- Mark Martin (UAW-GM Quality 500)
1999 -- Jeff Burton (Coca-Cola 600)
2000 -- Matt Kenseth (Coca-Cola 600)
2001 -- Jeff Burton (Coca-Cola 600)
2002 -- Mark Martin (Coca-Cola 600)
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner -- Roush Racing Tauruses
YOU'VE HAD WINNING STREAKS BEFORE AT TRACKS, BUT THIS MUST FEEL REALLY GOOD BECAUSE MOST OF THE TEAMS ARE BASED IN THE CHARLOTTE AREA. "We have enjoyed and done well at Charlotte. That's the home for most of the race teams and, outside of Daytona, probably has more prestige than any other place we go to. I've looked back and thought about how the 18 car, the 20 car and the 24 car have run there of late and it's surprising when I take a look at the actual statistics and see that we have won that many times with one of our teams. I really hadn't been satisfied with the way we'd run there enough to say that we were doing more than our share. Charlotte comes at a point this year when the championship is very much up in the air. I'm glad that Mark has got the strength that he's got at Charlotte. Matt Kenseth is equally strong there. Jeff Burton is good there and Kurt Busch seems to be good everywhere, so I don't see any reason why we should not have an opportunity to have a sweep this year rather than just the one that we've already won."
THREE OF YOUR FOUR DRIVERS HAVE WON AT CHARLOTTE DURING THIS FIVE-YEAR STREAK. "We've got good depth and great strength among our drivers. Mark has been a cornerstone to everything we've been able to do, but Jeff Burton has had his peaks and he's on his way back up again now. Matt is still on the rise. He's meteor-like and Kurt Busch is coming on like gangbusters, so we're really feeling good about the mile-and-a-half tracks wherever they are. We were a little disappointed in the outcome at Kansas City. I expected we would be better there than we were and I think that reflected in not having tested there with our cars. But we're looking forward to Charlotte and the balance of the year. I hope NASCAR doesn't give us another rules change that will put things upside-down as we get closer to the end. I guess we Ford guys feel that we're disadvantaged by what they did for the Chevrolet, in particular, and the Pontiac. The Dodge guys probably feel the same way, but we have had our task complicated and exacerbated by the rule change, and I hope there's not another one that turns things upside-down for us."
WHY DO YOU FEEL ALL FOUR OF YOUR TEAMS ARE SO STRONG RIGHT NOW? "It has to do with the drivers more than anything else. We've been consistent in our effort to make things equal in terms of having the very best technology available to all of our teams all of the time. We've been noisy about that. I insist that the sources of our technology be distributed and understood by the crew chiefs, but the results haven't always come. The big factor has been that there hasn't been the chemistry among the drivers that encouraged them to do their part of it together and that's the thing that we've got right now that's working for us. That would be our undoing otherwise. Even though our drivers are of different ages and experience levels, they're all compatible and have mutual respect for each. They want to help one another and want to see every one be successful, so having that common goal creates the environment that rallies all the teams."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Viagra Taurus
WHAT STANDS OUT THE MOST FROM THE COCA-COLA 600 FOR YOU? "Victory lane. It was really sweet to have Arlene and Matt there, and to have the guys who targeted that race ever since the first of March. That was their first time in victory lane and it sort of felt like the first time to me, too, because of that."
YOU WERE PARTICULARLY AGGRESSIVE THE LAST FEW LAPS GETTING THROUGH TRAFFIC. ARE YOU PROUD OF THE WAY YOU HUSTLED TO KEEP MATT BEHIND YOU? "I always hustle that much, but it doesn't always look that pretty. So, rather than take credit for being brilliant, I'd just like to say that, yeah, it looked pretty but I always try that hard and always drive that hard. That was just a real special night and that one was meant to be."
DO YOU FEEL THE MOVES YOU MADE BETWEEN LAPPED CARS AND TRAFFIC WON THE RACE? "I knew that could seal the deal and I knew that hesitating in there could lose the deal, so that was my opportunity. Like I said, it looked pretty. It might not have turned out that way, but it sure looked pretty. It was a great win for us and it was really, really cool to be part of the No Bull Five and it was incredibly cool that these guys targeted that race and were able to go out there and do what it took to win it."
YOU'RE STILL RIGHT THERE IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP RACE AND HAVE AS GOOD A CHANCE AS ANY. "On one hand, I would say this season has exceeded the expectations Ben and I had, but, on the other hand, it's not good enough. It depends on what direction you're looking at it from, but it's certainly been a really good year. It's sort of been a career turn kind of year for me after last season, so I feel real fortunate to have the opportunity to work with such great sponsors and great people."
DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN GIVE THESE GUYS A RUN EVERY WEEK WITH THE TRACKS LEFT? "I hope we can and I expect to based on the things that we have. We have a lot of confidence in our cars and we hope to run the last six races with two cars. That's our hope."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Citgo Taurus
TRACKS LIKE CHARLOTTE HAVE BEEN A STRENGTH FOR ROUSH RACING. "It really has been, but I can't tell you why. For a period of time we've found a way to win races there. It seems like the 600 has been our strongest race, especially recently. All four cars ran real well there in the spring and we'd like to think we can go back and do that again."
JACK MENTIONED THE FACT THAT ALL FOUR DRIVERS COMMUNICATE WELL TOGETHER AND THAT WAS A REASON FOR YOUR SUCCESS. "There's no question that we have more unity than we've ever had. It goes beyond the drivers, it's in the teams, too. The team members get along, the crew chiefs get along, the engineering staffs get along. It's just a good group of people right now. We don't always agree on everything, but we understand that different opinions are OK and we work through disagreements. There's a true bond that if we help each other to win, we're helping ourselves and there are a lot of multi-car teams that don't have that."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY DURING THE DAY VERSUS AT NIGHT? "It's a major difference. The track is much more slick and doesn't have near the grip it has at night. Charlotte is notorious for being a track that doesn't have much grip and, a lot of times, it's real warm at this race. When you go to Charlotte during the day and it's warm, it's hard to get grip on the race track. It's one of the hardest tracks we run on. I say that a lot, but Charlotte, because the turns are so different, it gets real slick. We've seen the grooves open up and seen people run high and low, so it's been a race track that's put on some great races lately."
HOW DO YOU HANDICAP THIS POINTS RACE? "I believe that a lot can change in one race. It's my opinion that not every one of those teams in the hunt will go through the next six races without having problems. The team that can be the most consistent and knock off top-six or top-seven finishes, I think that's the team that's gonna win it. I don't know that any team is the strongest team right now. When you really analyze the teams, no one just stands out. But if somebody makes a mistake or has an engine problem from here on out, it would eliminate one of them."
WHAT ABOUT MARK'S CHANCES? HE LOOKS MORE DETERMINED NOW THAN EVER. "I don't think he's more determined, I think his stuff is driving better than it's driven. When you watch a driver and he's not being successful, then people say he's not trying very hard, but he's probably trying harder then than when he's doing well because it's harder when you're not running well. I don't know that there's anymore determination with Mark. His stuff is certainly running better and he has more confidence because his cars are handling well. Mark is smart enough to get it done and I just have a feeling that this is the year."
IT SEEMED LIKE THE LAST 10 LAPS AT CHARLOTTE HE SAID, 'THIS IS MY RACE AND I'M TAKING IT.' "Yeah, he put the car on his shoulders and said, 'I'm gonna win this race.' You could see that. He drove real aggressively. Every hole that opened up, he went for it and that's Mark Martin at his best. When his stuff is handling well, you get a lot of that and when it's not handling well, you don't get a lot of it because his philosophy is correct. When you're having a bad day, don't make it worse. So when his stuff is really good, he goes and runs hard. When it's not really good, he tries to be smart."
MATT KENSETH --17-- DEWALT Power Tools Taurus
ANY REASON WHY YOU THINK CHARLOTTE IS SUCH A GOOD PLACE FOR ALL OF THE ROUSH TEAMS? "I think it's just a coincidence. I don't think there's something necessarily special about it or something special we know about it, it's just a case where we've had some decent success in the past. At Las Vegas the first few years, the Roush cars won all the time, too, and the last time we didn't run so good out there, so I think it's just a coincidence."
DOES IT HELP THAT ALL THE DRIVERS GET ALONG AND COMMUNICATE WELL TOGETHER? "That helps a little bit. Our communication has been better than what it has been in the past, but we've been running better. When you find one thing that works, we've been able to incorporate it in all four teams easier than we have in the past."
YOU WERE TRYING TO REEL MARK IN AT CHARLOTTE IN MAY. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? "It was a cool race. I wish we would have won, but it was fun to watch. I think we had a little better car than Mark, but we just got into too much lap traffic at the end to be able to get it done."
WERE YOU SURPRISED AT HOW AGGRESSIVE MARK WENT THROUGH THAT TRAFFIC? "It was a little crazy there at the end, but I was trying to find the holes through there, too, and I was trying to find the lapped cars to use as a pick and try to get by Mark at the same time. He was trying to get through as fast as he could without one of them messing him up and taking a lane away because then I would have passed him."
HOW DIFFERENT IS THIS TRACK IN THE NIGHTTIME VERSUS THE DAYLIGHT? "It really is night and day. It's totally different. The track is so slick during the day. It's really slippery. The setup for the daytime is definitely a lot different. We always seem to be a little better at night, so we're gonna have to work hard to be good during the day. When it gets slick, we seem to struggle."