Daytona 500: Ford Racing rain notes

Martin and Rudd try to snap Daytona drought. Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, are both still looking for their first Daytona 500 victory. Martin is scheduled to make his...

Martin and Rudd try to snap Daytona drought.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, and Ricky Rudd, driver of the No. 21 Motorcraft Taurus, are both still looking for their first Daytona 500 victory. Martin is scheduled to make his 19th career start in the "Great American Race" next weekend while Rudd will be making his 26th appearance.

MARK MARTIN:

YOU'RE STILL LOOKING FOR THAT FIRST WIN HERE. "I've been trying a long time, everybody is trying real hard. This is a real difficult one to win, especially for me, because it's not all about handling like most of the other race tracks. With these restrictor plates, your car makes a bigger difference than ever and what everybody else does on the race track with the draft and everything else seems to all play into it more. When we go to the other race tracks and we make the car go through the corners faster than everybody else, we have an excellent shot at winning the race, but there's a lot of other factors here that are involved."

IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE WHEN YOU'RE RACING FOR A TITLE LIKE LAST YEAR OR THE YEAR BEFORE WHEN YOU WERE HOVERING IN 12TH? "Obviously, in 2001 we were hovering around 12th and it was disappointing, but everything is the same. You're still racing. You still race as hard as you can, you work as hard as you can, you put as much into it. It's the same thing. Last year, we were racing for the championship and the year before we were racing just as hard to try and make the top 10, so there's really not that big of a difference. Results are a very fine line once you get on the race track."

WHAT ABOUT HAVING YOUNGER TEAMMATES. DOES THAT HELP BEING A VETERAN? "Any situation can be good or bad, whether it is bringing in another veteran beside you or bringing a young driver in. It just depends on the personalities and how everything works together. I've been real fortunate at Roush Racing to have tremendous young race car drivers that have given respect to me as being the guy that was there and helped build the organization through the past 15 years. They're able to come in now and be a part of it, instead of having to build one themselves and they've all been real respectful of that."

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT GREG BIFFLE? "Greg Biffle is an incredibly race car driver. He's gonna cause all of us to sit up in the seat and get serious."

WAS LAST YEAR REASSURING FOR YOU? "It was very reassuring because 2000 was not a spectacular year and 2001 was definitely devastating to me personally. There are no guarantees in this business. I didn't know if the magic would ever be back or not - someday it won't. It might be 20 years from now or it might be right now, but someday the magic won't ever come back. It'll go away and won't come back. I'm a realist and I realize that, but over the past 12 months I certainly have seen enough to know that it's more about a combination of people than it is ability. My ability is not going away and neither is the race teams', but in order to get performance on the race track you have to be able to get it together and everybody has to be able to work together like we did last year."

DID YOU HAVE A BETTER FEEL LAST YEAR AS FAR AS HAVING MORE FUN? "It was a way better feel. I wish I could really have fun with it and I've put a little bit of effort into trying to be happy and appreciate the things that I have. But, at the same time, it's incredibly difficult for me to just be full of joy all the time about my career because I've always kept my focus on getting more performance and getting a better result on the race track. I've never put any focus on enjoying any of it, so I have done better. Last year was far better for me and I had the time of my life racing with my son. That was real good perspective for me because I was able to appreciate what I have more when I see these kids with a sparkle in their eye and know that they dream of being where I am and knowing that very few will ever have the opportunity to be there. So it helps me appreciate where I'm at and what I have even more than before."

IS IT GOOD TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION EVERY FEW YEARS? "Not always. In a lot of cases that would work, but in some other cases it would not. I think if Jimmy and I would have stayed together, we would have had a good year in 2002 but we didn't know that at the end of 2001. It had been two years of disappointment for us and it was very, very good for me and very good for Jimmy and his team to make the switch. I think every situation can possibly require a different remedy, but, for us, it was good to make the switch."

WITH THE NEW RULES DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHERE YOUR TEAM STANDS IN COMPARISON TO THE OTHERS? "It is not great, but it is better than last year. I finished sixth in the 500 last year and I had to use a provisional to get in, so I have a much better, quicker race car this year. My prediction is we should qualify between 12th and 18th, which is way better than what we've been doing the past several years. But for me to predict a better finish than sixth would be a stretch because that's a hard thing to do, but we definitely have more speed right now going into Daytona than we have had in several years at Daytona."

RICKY RUDD:

DO YOU LIKE RESTRICTOR PLATE RACING? "No. I don't mean that in a negative way, but you don't have total control. It's not that it's not good racing, but I don't feel like I have control of the car like I do when I go to any other race track. When I say control, you have to get off the gas pedal and get on the gas pedal at the right time. Here, you've just got to put the throttle down and go and hold it wide open. Sometimes what happens to you is not necessarily dictated by what you did it's by what somebody else did. That's restrictor plate racing and you learn to deal with it. I think it makes for great racing for the fans. In our last restrictor plate race we finished third. I don't know how it happened, but we finished third. Hopefully, we learned a little something at Talladega that will apply to Daytona. We'll find out in the Shootout I guess."

MARK MARTIN, RUSTY WALLACE, THEY'VE HAD TO ANSWER THIS QUESTION ABOUT NEVER HAVING WON THIS RACE. DOES IT GET MORE FRUSTRATING EACH YEAR? "I think you've got to go back and put everything in perspective. If you look back through history, certain drivers have been really good here over the years and won more races than others. But you tend to go back and look at the teams that have been strong here. Nowadays the equipment, to me, makes up a lot more difference than the driver does at this particular race track. I'm fortunate that I'm driving for the Wood Brothers this year and when I look back and see that this team ran second in the Daytona 500 last year, I get excited about that. To me, this race track has been kind to certain teams over the years and it's been kind to the Wood Brothers over the years, so we look forward to racing the 500. As far as feeling like it owes me something, if seniority or coming here the most has anything to do with it, yeah, I guess you'd feel somewhat cheated. But the way I look at it, none of these race tracks owe any of us anything, so you take what it will give you. I'd love to get greedy and win this thing, but we'll see how it turns out."

-ford-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Mark Martin