Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, attended media day at Daytona International Speedway and answered a variety questions concerning his final Nextel Cup season and the Daytona 500. MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus HAVE YOU HAD A...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, attended media day at Daytona International Speedway and answered a variety questions concerning his final Nextel Cup season and the Daytona 500.
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO REFLECT ON WHAT'S ABOUT TO HAPPEN TO YOU?
"I have had a chance to reflect a little bit. I'm excited about opening a new chapter in my life and a little reminiscing of some great old times."
YOU SAID IT WILL BE NICE TO FOCUS ON HAVING SOME FUN.
"That'll start a year from now, but this year is all about work. It's gonna be all hard work - the hardest, most demanding year of my life and I'm all signed up for it and my family is signed up for the sacrifices and compromises and my race team is signed up for all that. Everybody stayed in place from last year in order to give me a shot at this championship."
WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE DRIVING FOR THE LAST TIME AT THIS TRACK?
"It doesn't seem like a big deal to me because this place has never been very kind to me. There is no special place in this place's heart for me and no special place in my heart for this particular place. I don't have any great memories or any wonderful days. I've had some good runs here and some good finishes. We won the shootout and won in an IROC car and things like that, but, for the most part, this is not at the top of my list."
DO YOU THINK THE SEASON WILL FLY BY?
"I don't think it'll go fast at all. These seasons are long and difficult and I haven't had any of them just fly by. It really, really wears you down."
YOU'VE SMILED MORE THE LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS. HAS ANYTHING CHANGED JUST KNOWING YOU'RE NEARING THE END?
"I think the smiles are because I can see the weight lifting and I can see the end of the tunnel. For so long I knew I was buried and could never see the end of the tunnel and now I see it. I really need to be out from under the pressures and the grind and I need to reclaim a piece of my life back for my family. These are things that are incredibly important to me at this time in my life, so I'm excited about the future and opening a new chapter. I'm excited about it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU GET IN YOUR CAR FOR THE 500?
"I'll be thinking about how the car is gonna handle - what kind of things that we might do to give us our best chance at contending to win this thing. I'll be thinking about how I'm gonna try to put myself in positions to stay out of trouble, hopefully, so that I can be there at the end. This is a very important race for me to finish. Obviously, I'd like a top-5 finish. I'd love a top-5 finish. I'd like a top-10 finish. I'd be much happier with a 20th-place finish than a 43rd like last year, so it will only come down to an all-or-nothing situation after we take the white flag for me. It is very important to me to get off to a better start than last year."
WHAT MAKES THIS RACE SO SPECIAL?
"It pays a lot of money. It has a big trophy."
WHAT DID THAT FIRST DAYTONA 500 YOU RACED IN PAY?
"I don't know what it paid to win because I really didn't check. I didn't think we were gonna win the first time we came, but I do remember the first year I came down here I was in the Busch Clash and it paid $10,000 to start, which was huge. That was a lot of money to me and I was in it, so that was pretty cool. A lot of things have changed. The trophy is bigger than what it was then. The paycheck is much bigger than it was then and that's a great indicator of how important the race is. I always say that how much a race pays and how big a trophy is is a great indicator of how difficult the race is to win."
WILL YOU EVER THINK ABOUT THIS OR THAT BEING YOUR LAST TIME AT A PARTICULAR PLACE?
"It's really strange the things that go through my mind. You would think I would be agonizing over my last Daytona 500 possibly. I'm not. What does strike me is when I go into a press conference and I see all the faces of the people that I've known and worked with for the last so many years and I have this little fear inside that says I may not see these guys again. I know that's not true, but that's what I feel. That's what I felt at the media tour when I walked in and saw all those faces. I've truly been blessed with the opportunity and the privileges that I've had in motorsports and in NASCAR racing and the success I've had, but, really, at the end of the day, family and relationships are really much more important than the rest of that. That's probably the part that scares me the most."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GO OUT WITH RUSTY?
"Rusty and I have known each other since '76 and we've been racing against each other since '77 on a weekly basis and it's pretty cool because Rusty and I came from the same part of the country. We have battle for all those years - 30 years - and we have never once had a problem on the race track and that says a lot for Rusty Wallace and the kind of person, the kind of competitor that he is. I think it's really neat."
WHAT KIND OF LEGACY WILL YOU GUYS LEAVE?
"Rusty Wallace is one of the greatest that's ever been. He's won fifty-some races and a championship and he's quite a character. He's one of the most distinct personalities in NASCAR and has been for a long time. He will leave his legacy and I guess I will mine as well. It's different. Mine is different and I'm not sure how I will be remembered. I'm sure it will be for being a determined competitor and a fair competitor."
ARE YOU LEAVING THE SPORT IN GOOD HANDS?
"Absolutely. I'm very excited to see the young guys coming along. You see young drivers that are in the sport now, but there are some that are outside waiting for the door to open that are just incredible as well. The sport is in great shape."
WILL YOU SEE YOUNG DRIVERS COMPETE AS LONG AS YOU AND RUSTY HAVE?
"Absolutely not. No way. The demands are so great now. In the days before Rusty and I, you got a later start because you had to wait for a good car to open up. You had to prove yourself and then wait for a good team. That put you in your early thirties before you got in a position to really race for a championship, so you raced much longer. But now the demands are so great. I don't think that anybody who started at 20 would want to be doing it at 50."
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT COMPANIES YOU WANT TO REPRESENT?
"I think it's mutual. First, you have to look at your options. You have to look at who is interested in you and then you choose. Everybody is different and everybody has the things they believe in and that they stand for, so I think you have to look at your options and decide where you want to stand."
WHAT DO SPONSORS GET AND WHAT DO YOU GET FROM THAT?
"We as drivers or teams get the funding that we need to be able to race our hearts out and realize our dreams. What they get is a commitment from the team to do everything possible to promote their products and help them sell their products and make it a good value to them for what they're putting into the sport."
DO THE FANS TRULY UNDERSTAND THE DEMANDS OF A DRIVER?
"I don't think they truly completely understand because I don't think that we've done that good a job of educating the fan on the day-to-day, week-to-week demands on the driver's and team's time. The teams have it even worse than the drivers. It's hard for anyone to imagine that everybody that works on one of these Nextel Cup teams travels in a private aircraft because it's impossible to do commercially. That should say something because private aircraft is way more expensive, but you can't get the work done. We can't get do what we need to do any other way, and I'm talking about all the guys that work in that garage and work on these teams, so that's just one small indicator or how demanding it is on everyone."
YOU'RE LISTED AT 135 POUNDS. HOW DO YOU STAY SO SLIM?
"I have a blessed metabolism. I only weighed 130 when I started lifting weights in 1988 and I traded a lot of body fat for some muscle, but I didn't really gain any weight. My weight fluctuates from 130-135. I'm just a little guy. I've tried to get big. I would have liked to have gotten up to 150 or 145, but I don't have the body type for that. I just can't get that heavy. I guess I could get fat if I wanted to, but I wasn't able to put the kind of weight on that I had hoped to when I started lifting heavy weights and stuff like that. At this point, at 46 years old, I can't strength train in the same lunatic fashion that I did in the early nineties. I strength train, but I don't bench press 230 pounds anymore. I don't squat 275 pounds anymore and those kind of things. Even those kind of things didn't render me with great weight gain, just strength gain, so I've tailored my fitness routine and my workouts to something that makes more sense for a guy my age."
WHAT KIND OF MUSIC WOULD YOU LISTEN TO IN THE RACE CAR IF YOU COULD?
WHAT ABOUT IF YOU COULD GIVE SOMEBODY A RIDE IN THE CAR?
"Bernie Mac. I'd like to look in his eyes when he was riding with me. He's funny."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PRESSURE YOUR TEAM MAY FACE CHASING A TITLE?
"I'm sure it will later on but I'm not worried about that right now. As that gets closer to a possible reality, obviously there would be great pressure because we know this is my last opportunity, but there's a lot of pressure in this business and it would be almost impossible for there to be anymore pressure on me this year than there was in 2004 for many reasons that most people don't know. That was, by far, the most pressure that I'd ever experienced, so it would be hard for me to imagine it being even more in 2005."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE SAFETY IMPROVEMENTS IN THIS SPORT?
"It's so incredible and it's filtered down to short track racing, too, which is so incredible to see. You go to the local short tracks and you see the seats coming along, head and neck restraints on many of the drivers. So much of the safety equipment has improved and that's just a trickle down effect that started at the Nextel Cup Series level."
Continued in part 2