Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, has an entire new team this season as he and teammate Kurt Busch swapped crew chiefs and crew members. Martin spoke about the change as well as his thoughts on the upcoming Daytona 500. MARK...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, has an entire new team this season as he and teammate Kurt Busch swapped crew chiefs and crew members. Martin spoke about the change as well as his thoughts on the upcoming Daytona 500.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CHALLENGES YOU FACE WITH THIS SWITCH OF CREWS? "The last time I changed race teams I won seven races and finished second in the championships. I think that might be a little over-optimistic to achieve the same result, but I'd have to say that I would hope we could at least have something in that direction compared to what we did last year. We have all really great people in our deal. We're just trying to take two veterans (Mark and Jimmy Fennig) and split 'em off with two guys who are earlier and younger in their careers (Ben Leslie and Kurt Busch). Maybe that will give us a different outlook. Personally, I think it's a great move. We hope that both cars run better and have better results from the change, otherwise, we certainly wouldn't have done it."
DO YOU THINK YOU CAN CONTEND FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? "I don't know."
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE? "We just need to run good and be there. We contended a lot of years and I didn't write a book at every point along the way saying what you had to do to do that. I can't really answer that question. We'll find out as we go into the season. As far as I'm concerned, whether or not we contend for a championship is not as important as how we run. What's always been more important to me is how we run."
WHAT TRACKS DO YOU NEED TO RUN BETTER AT? "We could run better at all the tracks. We didn't particularly run well at tracks that are usually our strong suit last year and we ran decent at some of the race tracks that are not our strong suit at all. We just need to pick up our whole performance a little bit."
HOW DO YOU GET BACK UP FRONT AGAIN? "I don't know, we're trying and working on that. We'll see what this year brings. If we knew how to do that last year, we would have done it. This thing is people driven. I've had the opportunity over the years to work with a lot of great people and I've probably had more success than I may have deserved. I'm surrounded by a lot of great people now and we'll see what kind of results we get. We might get better or worse results than we deserve, but the effort will be there from our team and all the teams from Jack Roush."
MARK MARTIN HASN'T FORGOTTEN HOW TO DRIVE. "I never have been able to win races in a slow car and I've had some slow cars in the past that we did the best we could with. We have to have the stuff that we can go out and race 'em with and the only thing we can do is keep working at that. It's a moving target. Someone is always moving the bar up, whether it's us or the competition."
WHO IS SETTING THE BAR RIGHT NOW, JEFF GORDON? "They set the bar last year, but nobody is setting the bar right now. That's why I can't answer your question about how we're going to do this year because we've got to go out there and run a half-dozen races or so where we can really see if we're gonna be able to contend or not."
HOW NICE IS IT FOR YOU TO BE AT HOME DURING SPEEDWEEKS? "It's pretty nice, but it kind of flips on me when I go to Charlotte. Speedweeks is such a long time and we do a little bit of testing down here, so it's nice. What's nicer than that is December and January weather. December was really sweet because we had 80-degree days almost every day. A lot of people here were crying that they wanted a change in seasons and now they've got what they wanted."
ARE YOU GUYS WASTING TIME TESTING NOW INSTEAD OF THE FIRST PART OF DECEMBER? "I don't think we're wasting time. I think this is okay. When it's all said and done, NASCAR, as always, will look at and evaluate what they see. I can't speak for them, but historically speaking, they have done what they needed to do to make things relatively in the ballpark. That's what they do, so we'll have to wait and see what happens after next week. Obviously, things are different because of the rules being different. They either anticipated or got some information that was probably different than the way it really has turned out to be."
DO YOU THINK THE SPEEDS ARE TOO SLOW HERE? HOW FAST WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE THE PACE OF THE RACE? "I tell you what, that race that you all said was the most boring race on the face of the Earth is still the greatest race I've ever been in at Daytona, which was the 2000 Daytona 500. So, if you want to look at the speed numbers, that's probably a good number to pull out because I have no idea what they were then, but I know the cars ran fast enough under those aerodynamic conditions that we have with a 45-degree spoiler, that handling determined where you went in that race. If you handled well, like I did in that race, you could pass cars without a draft partner and I did. I made a number of passes without any help and that was fun racing."
COULD THAT HAPPEN NOW WITH THE CURRENT RULES? "I don't think so. I think the cars, number one, will probably be slower than that. I'm guessing you would uncover that if you researched it, and we've got 10 more degrees of spoiler on the cars, plus the bodies themselves are probably even more efficient than they used to be. The cars are probably making more downforce, even if they were at 45 degrees than they made in 2000, but I'm just guessing I don't know that for sure."
DO YOU THINK AFTER THIS RACE THE EARNHARDT SITUATION WILL BE PUT TO REST AND THE FOCUS WILL GO BACK TO RACING? "I think maybe the media will be able to move on somewhat, or at least a little bit more. It is a high visibility event to come back to the Daytona 500 one year later after the tragedy, but we have all as competitors and media dealt with it for a year, so it's not like everytime you roll into this place you dredge up this ugly monster. That ugly monster has been all over us for a year. You don't have to look at the Daytona Speedway to remember it, we remember it everyday -- every competitor does and every one of you guys do. Coming back to the Daytona Speedway, to me, doesn't feel darker than before. There has been a dark spot that's been all over us for 12 months, but as far as the speedway goes, I don't think many of us really feel any association with that. We feel great loss, but we don't have any kind of association with Daytona."
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 97 Sharpe/Rubbermaid Taurus, has been one of the fastest Fords during the first two days of Daytona testing. Busch talked about his team's performance to this point and how he's adjusting to new crew chief Jimmy Fennig.
KURT BUSCH --97-- Sharpie/Rubbermaid Taurus
HOW HAVE THE FIRST TWO DAYS GONE? "We've made progress. I didn't know we had three days here, so I was kind of caught by surprise with that. Jimmy had a plan brewed up for the three days already and we've made great progress as a team. We've got a bunch of new guys and it's great. I'm really excited about the whole deal."
IT'S ONLY BEEN TWO DAYS, BUT ARE THERE SOME THINGS YOU LIKE ALREADY ABOUT THIS SWITCH? "Yeah, but I can't quite find the right words just yet. It's just the camaraderie on the crew. Nobody is stepping on each others toes and everybody is working on the same page. It just seems a bit more clear on what the program is. I can see their work ethic on the way things are gonna progress through this test and the next test and, also, the 500."
YOU'RE ONE OF THE FASTEST FORDS, BUT YOU'RE DOWN ON THE SPEED CHART. ARE YOU CONCERNED? "It seems as if the Fords are struggling a little bit being at the bottom of the time sheet, but it's not much of a concern for us. We're just gonna keep working on our Ford and we're confident that if we get a rule change it will surely help. Either way, I think we're going to be okay."
WHAT ABOUT TOMORROW? "We've gone through rear-end things and front-end things and weight distribution, so tomorrow we're gonna work on some aero stuff and possibly a gear change. Maybe we can get some drafting practice as well and get some experience with that so we can prepare for the 125s."
Go to part two