Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus, will go into Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 second in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. He trails leader Dale Jarrett by 213 points, but picked up 101 points in last week's...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus, will go into Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 second in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. He trails leader Dale Jarrett by 213 points, but picked up 101 points in last week's race at Bristol. Martin is one of three Ford drivers with a chance at the Winston No Bull 5 bonus if he wins tomorrow's race. He spoke about that opportunity and where he's at in the points chase.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- HOW DO YOU LIKE THE IDEA OF GETTING FANS INVOLVED IN THE NO BULL 5? "I think it's really neat for the teams to have an opportunity to compete for a million dollars, but I don't think it even compares to the chance for a fan having the chance to win a million dollars. It's not even in the same league." ON THE TRACK THOUGH, A MILLION DOLLARS IS THE FARTHEST THING FROM YOUR MIND, RIGHT? "Yeah. You know, it could be one dollar or one million or a hundred million. That might change some people, but it wouldn't change me. I think the integrity that you have isn't bought as far as the decisions you make, and, if you're doing what you oughta be doing, you're trying just as hard at Martinsville as you are at the Brickyard or at Bristol as you are at the Daytona 500. Those things are great and the rewards are fantastic, but most of us race for ourselves and not for anybody else or anything else." DO YOU LIKE THE FACT FIVE GUYS HAVE A CHANCE AT IT OR IS THE WINSTON MILLION BETTER? "What's good about this is that there's a much greater chance of Winston spending their money. That may not be the best deal for them, but I think the fans should remember what Winston has done for this sport of auto racing and what it does to build it. They have helped make this sport what it is today with the things they've done over the past 20 years." YOU'RE SECOND IN POINTS, BUT IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF OTHER DRIVERS ARE GETTING ALL THE ATTENTION. DO YOU LIKE JUST KIND OF LURKING THERE IN SECOND PLACE AND NOT BEING REALLY NOTICED? "It's probably the best spot there is for me. Obviously, that's not the spot I would choose if I could choose. I'm a low-key kind of guy. I don't make a big deal out of myself. It's pretty obvious the people around me don't make a very big deal out of me either. I try to solidly do a better job every day, every week, every race and I'm lucky to be working with a team that is the same way. It's not really a high-profile, but more or less a performance-driven team. We're out here doing it every week. I'd certainly like to be in front by 200 or 300 points, but we haven't scored enough points to be there, so we have to accept where we're at and try to keep working." YOU STILL HAVE TIME AND YOU GAINED 100 POINTS LAST WEEK. DO YOU FEEL IF YOU CAN GET HOT YOU CAN STILL WIN THE TITLE? "Actually, we don't even need to get hot. All we've gotta do is have them have as much trouble as we've had and then we would be pretty close. We would have a reasonable shot at the championship. We had trouble early in the year in a number of races. They were things we couldn't control, so that puts us where we're at. Regardless of where we finish in the points, a hot streak would be nice. To go out and win a bunch of races here would be nice, but that won't do us any good in the points. What will do us good in the points is to have the trouble races balance out and then we'll be in contention if that happens."
MARK MARTIN NO BULL 5 PRESS CONFERENCE "I have a very good feeling about this weekend. We have really done a lot of searching within ourselves and our notebooks in the 6 as well as raiding the 99's head and notebooks. We have tested here twice this year. We tested here in the spring and raced here and didn't run as well as we expected, and we came back and tested again. I think we've got it on the run this time. I hope that we can be competitive for it and I hope we can go down to the wire side-by-side and pull out the win. Because of all the things involved it would certainly be the "greatest win of my career -- not only because of what we would win, but the opportunity of hooking Johnny (Bowser -- his No Bull 5 fan partner) up with his share would be extra special." HOW IS THE KNEE? "It's pretty rough gettin' old. I've had some aches and pains. I've had a lot of trouble with my back, as you know. When this injury occurred, I knew from the way the healing process went, that, if my knee needed to go a foot and it was getting an eighth of an inch better every day, it was gonna take a long time. My wrist was different, it was a little sore, but it got better fast. It was making half-inch increments every day. That's kind of the situation that I'm in now. The knee is very tolerable, but it's kind of like my back. I've got a bad feeling that it's gonna be painful in situations forever. I don't think it will ever be the same. Maybe it will be, but it's stiff on bending past 90 degrees and it certainly can't push the kind of weight from that kind of bending. I can't stoop or kneel down and come up on it, I have to come up on my right one. So, all that means is that I'm able to do 100 percent of everything that I need to do, but I have to find new ways to get up off the floor or certain situations like that. I'm goin' to the doctor Tuesday and I'm gonna ask him a lot of questions about it. If it never got any better than it is today, then it'd just be another one of those ol' man aches and pains. My grand dad is 95 years old and the way I feel right now I'm not sure I want to live that long." HOW MUCH DID THAT AFFECT YOU AT WATKINS GLEN? "I felt some light pain braking. I had to push on the brake pedal in the race harder than I ever expected to. The car didn't work as well, it didn't handle quite as well as it might have and I had to slow it down a little bit more in a couple different deals. Actually, it didn't bother me as much as my back did. In the race I had to push the brake pedal so hard that my back hurt. The reason my back hurt is because when I got home from Indianapolis, I had this real beautiful IROC trophy from winning the IROC race, and I wanted to put it on the back side of my desk where there is a step-up. I didn't want to slide it because I was afraid I'd scratch the desk. I'm very independent. I wanted it back there and I wanted it there now and I was gonna put it there. I put it there and I hurt my back. It's been really marginal ever since, but that's how sensitive my back is. As bad as I hate it, I'm scheduled for surgery after Atlanta -- on Monday after Atlanta. I'm gonna ask a lot more questions because I want to know for sure that for all the grief and trouble...I hate being crippled. For a month I was crippled after that accident at Daytona and I can't stand it. I can't stand it. And I don't want to go through that kind of thing again and my back not be a whole lot better. It's not something that I would look forward to livin' with for the rest of my life. It still hurts I just don't talk about it anymore." YOU WERE GONNA HAVE SURGERY LAST YEAR, RIGHT? "I was scheduled to have it and I went in for the surgery and they did my blood work. They basically scared me to death. I thought I was gonna die of leukemia. After having my blood work done, they told they couldn't do the operation. I thought I was sick and for three days never slept. I went back three days later and had the blood work re-done and they said, 'Oh, it must have been just a common cold. You're OK now, we can do the surgery.' So then they re-did my MRI and the bulge in my disk was gone and they were gonna take the bulge out. So then I said, 'Well, what about my pain?' And they said, 'Well, your pain is a deteriorating disk and the only alternative we have is fusion.' I said, 'That's it. I'm outta here. We ain't been talkin' about fusion. I've heard bad things about fusion. I thought I was gonna die for three days. Now I'm not gonna die. I'm goin' home and lay down.' So I didn't have it done, but now I'm up for the fusion as long as somebody will not guarantee me but really convince me that I'm gonna be better after I have it." WHAT'S THE TIME FRAME? "I want to have it done the day after the Atlanta race, so I can be at the NASCAR Banquet physically. If I can go and be present at the banquet, I'd sure enough test in January." LAST SATURDAY WE WERE READY TO GIVE JARRETT THE TROPHY. IT LOOKS DIFFERENT THIS WEEK. WHAT DOES 200 POINTS BACK MEAN TO YOU? "It means I'm still pretty far behind, but if they slip one more time like they did at Bristol, we'll go to the next race track -- all of us, you, us, them -- knowing that they could leave that next race without the points lead. It takes one more slip like that and then another of course another slip like that, and then they've lost the lead. If it happens one more time the temperature will go up in the kitchen for sure." WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN JARRETT HAD HIS PROBLEMS LAST WEEK? "I didn't know about the first accident, but I obviously recognized that he was having some kind of trouble as we were getting ready to lap him when he had the second one. I didn't overly consider it. I had my own battle going with the 18 car and with the coming of the 24 and the 20. They've been gaining some points on me every week the last few weeks, so I wasn't overly focussed on it. When you're 315 points behind, you're not really super-intense-focussed on every move that they make. When you're 30 or 50 behind, you pretty much know every move that they make. I was just racing." IS IT AMAZING GORDON HAS WON FOUR IN A ROW HERE? "No, it doesn't amaze me. If you look at what they've done, no it's not really that amazing. I mean, it's amazing but so is everything else that the 24 crowd has done. It's right in line with what they've done at road courses and what they've done a bunch of other places we've been." IF YOU DIDN'T HAVE BACK SURGERY, WOULD YOU BE LOOKING AT SHORTENING YOUR CAREER? "I don't know about that. I'm one of the few guys that has a very clear picture of where I'm going in my racing career -- time frame and everything. A very long range, much longer than most of the guys that I race with and a small part of that may be the pain that I've had to go through. But another part of it is the demand in the schedule. My son is seven years old and I miss him an awful lot. I don't get to be with him nearly as much as I want to. I've raced 25 years and I have made supreme sacrifices to get here. This sport continues to grow and it gets more and more difficult all the time to keep going and keep the pace up. I know there are gonna be more races in the future and more stuff to do, so, regardless of how I feel physically, I have a plan. You know me, I ran 24 hours after I had the injuries at Daytona -- I ran the race -- and I will stick with my plan. Obviously, I'm signed up right now through 2005, so we'll review what we do beyond that, but right now I don't have any worries about what I'm doing for the next six-and-a-half years." HOW HAS ERNIE'S RETIREMENT AFFECTED YOU AS FAR AS INJURIES? "It really relieved me, and I think most of the competitors were really relieved. The thing that I just went through in July was not even serious. If I turned around and did that again right now, it would affect my long-term plan for racing, but a head injury is totally different thing. A 10 percent chance to live and beatin' the odds and coming back and having another head injury is pretty serious. To come back and have another one after that really makes you think. We're all very relieved and very sad and sorry. The thing that I'm glad about is the success Ernie Irvan has had and that never needs to be forgotten. Where he came from and how he dug in to get here and to ride at the top of the wave, I don't want forgotten." THE LAST THREE OR FOUR WEEKS IT SEEMS THINGS HAVE FALLEN OFF. AT WATKINS GLEN ESPECIALLY. WHAT HAPPENED? "It was bad for us. We had a slight glitch in our plan for there. We had a test scheduled and then we had the opportunity to do the tire test. We thought, "OK, we'll do the tire test and not use the test that counts against us and we'll have one leftover.' Which we used here and was a very sound plan. We went there (Watkins Glen) and tested on brand new asphalt with sealer on it. We developed the tire. We had the car workin' pretty good. We had a new car. And then they wore the sealer out, tore the track up, put concrete down. They had a test, we didn't go test, and we were not prepared with the shortened practice that we had. We were not prepared handling-wise for the race and we missed it. We missed it with out car and with our setup. We missed the setup at Michigan on a new tire that we thought we had under control in practice. In Happy Hour we were the fastest car and it just didn't go our way on Sunday. That's Racin'.
"Bristol, we probably ran a little bit better than we finished. We had a couple of problems in the pits and different things and weren't able to recover exactly right. We're poised to get on a hot streak, but we have not performed this year as brilliantly on certain days as we did last year, although we have performed extremely consistent and been right there. We've run second in a number of races that (snapping his fingers) just like that we could have won, but ran second in. Competition moves around. The target is always moving. I say it's a moving target in Winston Cup racing and we've been missing that just a little bit."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, was named winner of the third quarter driver of the year award by a special 12-member board. Bobby Labonte and Juan Montoya were named in the first and second quarters. Jarrett spoke about the award and other issues during a morning press conference.
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "I'm glad this was voted on before the last two weeks (joking), but this is quite an honor. It's not something I think you as a driver go out and look to try to win. You go out and perform, but this is an honor that is a team honor to me as much as anything. I just appreciate all the hard work and effort our crew has put forth within the entire Robert Yates organization and they're really the ones that have put us in this position. We did have an extremely good quarter winning a couple of races in that time and a lot of top-five finishes, which is something we're gonna need to continue to do in our quest for the championship. Again, it's greatly appreciated again on behalf of everyone at Robert Yates Racing." DOES THE TIRE FEEL DIFFERENT DOWN HERE? "Obviously, we have had many race runs, but I did run the Busch car some. I can't say that I see much difference. The only thing is after a number of laps yesterday with the Busch car, and I'm sure we're gonna kind of see the same with Winston Cup, is that maybe when you get to that point we're still gonna slow down quite a bit but there's more rubber left on the tire. That's good. The concern always was before that the tread was gettin' so thin that it doesn't take much to run over something there and eventually get a flat tire or something like that, which creates more of a problem. I think we're still gonna see a fall off just because of how abrasive this track surface is." WHAT'S IT LIKE TO RACE EARNHARDT. DO YOU GIVE HIM MORE ROOM. DO YOU WATCH HIM MORE CLOSELY IN YOUR MIRROR. IS HE MORE AGGRAVATING? "Oh, he's aggravating as hell to race with, but you know that's him. It's aggravating, but it's fun racing. You know you've got a race on your hands. It's been a while since he's been able to be this aggressive again, but you know what's coming so you know how to kind of prepare. You saw Jeff and Bobby race him up at Michigan and then Terry saw more than he wanted to the other night, I guess. You just kind of know what to expect. If he's behind you, you know that he's gonna be trying to get as close to your rear bumper as he possibly can. You know that's his style to not necessarily hit you, but to get there and get as much air off of you and, basically, make your life as miserable as he can. You know if you're trying to pass him that he's gonna do everything in his power to keep that from happening. He's not somebody that I look at when I come up in the race to think I've got to give him extra room because I could get taken out here. That's not the way I view it. I know that it's gonna be a fight to take that position or, that if he's caught me that he's gonna do everything he can to get that position." DO VIEW THINGS AS THE GLASS BEING HALF FULL OR EMPTY? "I'm really not thinking about any of that. My main concern right now is thinking about getting a pit over here on the frontstretch tomorrow somehow. It's gonna be difficult with the sunshine here today. I think we've seen this race track faster on the second day one time and that's when it was about 50 degrees and we're not gonna see that either. Basically, my concerns are that I get as good a starting spot as I can "and try to make up for the mistake yesterday. I'm not looking at the points lead. We have to come here tomorrow and try to win this race no matter where we start. If we're pitting on the backstretch or the frontstretch, we've got a good enough race car that will allow us to do that, if the circumstances all work for us." DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A BULLSEYE ON YOUR BACK? "Being up front everybody is definitely shooting for you, but I don't know that it's necessarily they're shooting at us. It's just that we're the ones in front. They're trying to do their job and finish as high as they possibly can and win races and put pressure on us. On the other side of it, we're trying to do our job to make sure we don't have problems and finish as high up as we can if we can't win the race. That's the position you want to put yourself in, that everybody is shooting for you." DID YOU KNOW THE TIRE WAS UNDERINFLATED BEFORE YOU ROLLED OUT YESTERDAY FOR QUALIFYING? "Actually, I think that we had a little miscommunication there. I thought that I had a flat tire. When I went down the backstretch, the car turned left. What happened to that point, I don't know if we had a problem somewhere else, but the tire wasn't as low as what we thought when we got in. So, apparently, I just messed up and lost it, but I felt like the whole time I had a tire going down. I tried to get in the corner in a little different way to make sure that I could get through the corner. I knew that it wasn't on the rim or anything, but the way it felt going down the backstretch, since we already had a tire problem earlier in the day except it was a left-front that went flat during a qualifying attempt in practice. So I felt something similar in the rear end, so I tried to steer the car a little bit differently. When I got to the center of the corner the car rotated a lot better than it had. I tried to get in the gas pretty hard, not wide open like I normally would have because I felt like I had a problem there. It was just turning too good and made another mistake." WHAT ARE YOUR BEST AND WORST EXPERIENCES AT THIS TRACK? "It probably wouldn't long to think back to the worst. Maybe the first time I was here qualifying for a Busch race. I made a really good lap on my first lap of qualifying and then crashed the second lap of qualifying. I had to go over here to someone's shop and work pretty much all night to repair the car to be in the race the next day because we didn't have backup cars back then. We barely had enough to get from one race to the other, so that was probably one of the worst. As far as the best, I can go back to 1965 with my dad winning this very race here -- the Southern 500 -- and then my two victories here in Winston Cup racing and the two that I think I have in Busch Grand National. There have been a lot of good things happen here. This is a good race track. I know a lot of guys when they come through these gates they kind of dread this race, but I've looked forward -- especially all week here -- to come here. I enjoy the challenge that this race track presents. I just love to race here and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow." DID THE NEW TIRE CONSTRUCTION HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR PROBLEM? "I don't think it did. I'm not exactly sure. I had run only two laps -- a fast lap right off and then ran another good lap except when we had the left-front tire. We came in then when I think we ran a 29.01 which was second to Jeff in practice. We came in and then left-front tire was 17 pounds down at that time, so we know it was down when I went into turn three, but I don't think it has anything to do with the tire. The tire feels awful good. There are bumps and seams in the race track back there that you get in and it just gave me a funny feeling that I thought I had a tire going down at that point. Goodyear's got a good tire here -- as good as you can build for this place because of the racing surface."
VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW MARK MARTIN --60-- Winn Dixie Taurus (Finished 1st) -- "I just never dreamed that we could win the race, but I've gotta give credit to the Winn Dixie team and Tony Lambert. They never gave up. They still thought they could win. After Happy Hour yesterday I told them that we were gonna get embarrassed today, but Tony came up with some ideas and some things to try here today and the car just worked great. I couldn't ask for better. I guess sometimes being mixed up and kind of playing pin the tail on the donkey doesn't hurt because that's kind of what we did with the setup here but it seemed to work out here today." WERE YOU BEING CONSERVATIVE? "No, after that last caution I knew I better get as much of a lead as I could get and I got every inch all the time. I knew his car would peak and it did. It peaked, it was comin' three-tenths a lap and I knew if he would have been closer to us he'd of had us, but then it started to stabilize there that last five laps and everything was OK. I had to make sure I got through the lap traffic on time and didn't make any mistakes because they were strong enough to win that race, if they would have been in the right position." DID YOU MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS DURING THE RACE? "No, we never touched anything. We never made an adjustment at all."