MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET, met with the media at Darlington Raceway on Friday to discuss racing for championship, the new surface at Darlington, winning at the South Carolina raceway, and much more. ON WINNING THIS RACE LAST YEAR...
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET, met with the media at Darlington Raceway on Friday to discuss racing for championship, the new surface at Darlington, winning at the South Carolina raceway, and much more.
ON WINNING THIS RACE LAST YEAR AND THE EXCITEMENT AND CHALLENGE OF RACING AT DARLINGTON... "This place has always been a challenge, and the challenge is quite a bit different after the most recent repave. It keeps you working all the time. This repave and the composition of this asphalt is greatly different than anything they had put down before. The handling challenges are greatly different than anything we've dealt with here before. You never know where these wins are going to come from. Last year in practice, I didn't think we were very good at all; last year in qualifying we were disappointed. When the race started, the car was better than I thought it was, and it just got better the longer the race went. The car was just supreme at the end of the race. Just like I told you last year, I felt like somebody was going to wake me up. It was really exciting to see my team and their enthusiasm in victory circle. It was a real special night."
AS FAR AS CHAMPIONS GO, WHAT DO YOU THINK CHAMPIONS NEED TO SUCCEED AND WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU AND YOUR TEAM WILL NEED THE MOST TO PULL OFF A CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? "I'm a simple person and my easiest answer for that is to score more points than anyone else. You can do that in every different way. There is all different of ways that you can score more points. You can go out and blister everybody, or you can go out and be more consistent than your next best guy that's blistering everybody. It's racing, man. You have to score more points if you want to win."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE RACE THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR AS FAR AS THE HANDLING, AND WHAT ABOUT THE ABRASIVENESS? WILL IT EVER BE LIKE IT WAS? "I'm no chemist. I can tell you that this is different. This is a different mix than they ever used here or at Rockingham before. Charlotte is the same way. I have heard that the track is the same from the tire test, basically. That's what we still see at Charlotte; Charlotte has gotten a little slicker but it doesn't show the rocks and it doesn't cut the rubber off the tires. It makes the tires really hot so you have to run a really hard compound, which makes the tire not have the forgiveness in the slip--it doesn't slide. It either sticks and it's real fast, or it breaks loose and you lose a big majority of your grip. Charlotte is the same way. They get lighter in color, but they don't seem to age. They figured something out--the asphalt company. I'm not the guy; you need to talk to the guy that mixes the stuff and he can tell you what they did. I can tell you that it lasts ten times longer than the way they used to do it. I'm not educated enough to give you the specifics on that."
THIS IS THE KIND OF ASPHALT THAT YOU'LL HAVE AT DAYTONA. THIS IS A FAST TRACK AND A NARROW TRACK; DAYTONA IS A FAST, NARROW TRACK. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DAYTONA LOOKING AHEAD? "First of all, Daytona will be just like Talladega only narrower. [Daytona is] going to race like it [Talladega], it will feel like it, but it will feel like it's half as wide as Talladega. That's what we'll deal with in February."
WHAT ABOUT THE DOUBLE-FILE RESTARTS--TRACK POSITION, NEW TIRES, WHICH DO YOU GO WITH? "Double-file restarts? I wish you hadn't brought that up; I had not even thought about that. I'm going to try not to think about it until the time comes. We did double-file restarts before, but they were lapped cars. I'll be honest with you, those lapped cars raced just as hard. They raced their brains out for their own reasons. It will be an additional challenge, but it won't be like we were having single-file restarts before and suddenly went to double-file restarts. It will just be a little more intense. Track position is going to be real important here because the tires don't give up as much as they used to and handling doesn't fall off as much as it used to. The speeds are up from where it used to, so the aero is more. Any time you run faster, they're always more critical. It will be a very similar race to last year."
IN TALKING ABOUT HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES, THE TERM "OLD SCHOOL DRIVER" HAS BEEN USED A LOT. WHAT DO YOU TAKE THAT TO BE? WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION OF AN OLD SCHOOL DRIVER? "I hadn't thought about it a whole lot, but the first thoughts that come to my mind are that they drove back in the old school; back when racing was a little bit different and a little bit simpler. It was more hands-on. You know what I mean; just old school. I don't think anybody would--I'll use an example--I wouldn't call Kyle Busch old school. Although he is a hell of a racer, he's probably not quite old school, but he's got some in him. He does get his hands involved in the ownership-side and he drives all the time in anything he can. I think the more old-school racers would be the guys from my generation and back. I think that's more generational than anything."
HAMLIN HAS TALKED RECENTLY ABOUT WANTING TO FINISH RACES BECAUSE HE WANTS TO BE A PART OF THE TEAM AND WANTS HIS GUYS TO KNOW THAT HE'S NOT GIVING UP ON THEM. HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT FACTOR FROM THE TEAM PERSPECTIVE TO HAVE THEIR DRIVER FINISH THE RACE? "I think it's hard to answer your question directly. I will tell you this; competition is really, really fierce in this business. Anything you can do to build team morale and team unity will--whether you say it does benefit you or not, if you don't have it you're in less standing. Denny Hamlin made some really great choices and gutted it out, and did some really team unity building stuff--that was good stuff. That's what you hope to do. If he couldn't have physically done it then it would have been understood. It wasn't expected of him; it was the extra mile that he went. Those are the kinds of things that you do to try to get ahead or stay ahead, and to build unity and respect and all those kinds of things."
LOOKING AHEAD TO CHARLOTTE IN A FEW WEEKS, THE ALL-STAR WEEK IS A GOOD CHANCE TO HIGHLIGHT THE CREWS AS WELL AS THE DRIVERS. IT SEEMS LIKE THE EXCITEMENT IS ALWAYS ONE NOTCH HIGHER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHAT THAT EVENT MEANS? "That event is just incredible, especially for the fans. I think the competitors love it too, but the fans really love it. It's really exciting. There couldn't possibly be a better place to have it than Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's prefect. It's a weekend that I think everybody looks forward to and somebody comes out of there with a big trophy and a big check. Everybody walks out of the grandstands with a smile on their face."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BEING HIGHER UP IN POINTS THIS YEAR VERSUS LAST YEAR, AND HOW MUCH MORE RELAXED IT HAS YOUR MINDSET THAT YOU DON'T HAVE TO MAKE UP GROUND? "Well, it's still really competitive. We were sixth last week, we're tenth this week. We're right there and it's early in the season. Things are really different. A year ago, we were still trying to figure out if I could really do this and how it was going to work. This year, we're more focused on the competition, it's a moving target. A lot of our competition has upped their game. We're in the process of trying to up our game as well and that's been kind of hit-or-miss. We had great performances, incredible performances at Bristol and Martinsville, but we didn't get the finishes for it. Then we didn't have such great performances and we got good finishes. It's just racing every week and working every week. We're still just as intense as we were a year ago, but last year it was more answering questions and this year it's more focused on the details of making our race cars better and giving better performances."
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SPOILER, AND HOW MUCH ARE YOU MENTALLY DEALING WITH IT OR THINKING ABOUT IT? "I don't think about it, but that is one thing that has changed. We saw signs of being off on our performance before we switched, let's say at Atlanta with the wing, we have seen more since we switched; although, we also saw our two best performances. We ran as good at Bristol as we ran anywhere last year, and we ran as good at Martinsville as I ever have in my life. We've had some really good runs and we've been off a few weeks, and part of that is just the competition and part of that is us trying to up our game. It may be the difference in the spoiler; we don't see it in the numbers. That is the one thing that has changed, and that may or may not be it. The competition is always a moving target and you always have to be working to get better because your competition is too. That's what we're doing; we're working to get better."
AS AN OLD SCHOOL DRIVER, WHICH ONE OF YOUR DARLINGTON WINS MEANS THE MOST? THE ONE ON THE OLD TRACK, OR THE ONE LAST YEAR? "I'm such an old school driver that I can't hardly remember winning in '93. I would have to say that the win last year was really special. 1993 was a different time; I don't sink back into those times very much. When I think about the people I was racing with, it is very heart-warming to think about all the greats that I was racing with then and that I managed to get a win back then as well."
-source: gm racing