Dover II: Martin - Ford Friday interview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, has four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins at Dover International Speedway, including three straight fall race triumphs from 1997-99. Martin spoke about the second week of the chase as part of the ...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, has four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series wins at Dover International Speedway, including three straight fall race triumphs from 1997-99. Martin spoke about the second week of the chase as part of the weekly Nextel Wake-Up Call.

MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

"It's awesome. It's obviously one of my favorite places to race. It always has been. The stats don't show near the performance that we've had. I can remember coming up here, out of the first 15 times I came up here, at least half of the time we blew a tire out and piled the wall while we were running really good. So there's been so many times when wins or top fives were foiled by tires blowing out, so it doesn't even show how well we've run here over the past and how much I love this place."

AS A COMPETITOR AND TEAMMATE, CAN YOU RATE THE YOUNG GUYS COMPETING FOR THE 6 CAR NEXT YEAR? "That's a hot potato isn't it? I wasn't prepared for that one. I thought we were gonna talk about racing here. We have some bright, young talent at Roush Racing and we've spent some time evaluating and choosing these guys. The final decision to be made will be made by Jack and the folks at Roush Racing and by AAA. That's really as far as I need to go with it because I've been focused on making the chase and now I'm focused on trying to make the most of the chase and have a good time while doing so, so I really haven't been very involved. I'm a big fan of Todd Kluever's. I'm a big fan of David Ragan. I'm a huge fan of Danny O'Quinn and Erik Darnell has quietly gone to work everyday and done a real nice job, so they're all fine drivers and great young talent."

JEFF BURTON SAID IF SOMEONE PLANTED THE STORY ABOUT RCR'S BAD WHEELS THAT IT WAS UNETHICAL. IS IT OK FOR DRIVERS AND TEAMS TO PLAY MINDGAMES? "Let me just first say it sounded to me like you all made Jeff mad. When I got here he was doing a real nice job of straightening that situation out. Let me tell you what happens in racing, and it doesn't just happen in NASCAR racing, it happens everywhere in racing. I've been racing a long time and only two-thirds of my career has been in NASCAR. Whenever you're doing an incredibly good job, like almost dominating, people don't understand how you can be doing that without going around the rules. And, by the way, all competitors do the best they can to either work in the gray areas or get around the rules, so it is not uncommon for people that are standing back watching to miss the mark. You're always trying to figure out how they're beating everybody; how are they doing that? I would say way more often than not, the people who have said how I was getting it done when I was getting it done, almost every time they missed the mark. It wasn't what they thought. It was something else or it was just a combination of things. The car was working magic at the time. Everything was magic at the time or whatever. I don't know what happened. I was long gone up there. I have no idea. I will tell you this much. I would be sorely disappointed in NASCAR if they said, 'Well, that wasn't in the rules so we're not gonna do anything about it,' if they were leaking air out of their wheels. From listening to Jeff Burton, they weren't doing that. I have to take his word for it and you guys need to too because NASCAR, evidently, has not done anything to pursue any kind of penalties. Everybody understands what NASCAR's intent is and that is there's an air-pressure rule, you can't go below it, and bleeding air out in any way, shape or form -- whether it says you can or can't do it in the rule book, is not meant to be done. So for NASCAR to look the other way, I just can't hardly believe it. I've said that from the very beginning. I can't believe that NASCAR would do that, but evidently they weren't doing it. Jeff said they've got the same wheels this week as last week, so I'm sure that if they're leaky, I don't know why they'd be leaky."

DO YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE TO GET A BUNCH OF POINTS THIS WEEK WITH PLACES LIKE TALLADEGA AND MARTINSVILLE COMING UP? "Every race track has got its own set of circumstances. Talladega, I know I'm gonna wreck there, so I need to build a cushion in all these other races. I never go to Talladega and don't get in a wreck, so it's pretty much a given. I need to not be wrecking here and I need to be running good. I love this race track. Pat Tryson has figured out a way to make me run good at Martinsville and at Phoenix, so there are no race tracks on the circuit that I feel like we're gonna go and not perform, but it's not the performance that will really decide the championship, it's the wrecks and the things that you really couldn't control that will. So we'll do our best to cover all the spots. In the performance part of it, we'll do our best and then the stuff we can't control we'll be saying our prayers."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RELEASE THIS WEEK ABOUT JACK BEING IN TALKS TO POSSIBLY SELL PART OF ROUSH RACING TO JOHN HENRY? "That's another hot potato for me. It's something that I haven't been very involved in. I don't know how to word this properly. I don't know all the reasons and I don't know all the benefits because it's not something that is of great importance to me, so I really haven't been involved in it. I don't really know what's going on there. I've known that there has been these talks for quite some time and I really don't know where that goes. I've been focused on the task at hand. I'm not that global. I think maybe you guys are starting to see that I don't know nothing about nothing, except what I know about. And what I know about is real small, but what I do know about, I do know about -- I know quite a bit about."

IS IT SURPRISING JACK WOULD EVEN CONSIDER IT? "You know what, if I answer that question it will be out of ignorance. The ignorance in me says I don't know why in the world he would do that, but when I talk to Geoff Smith just a little bit about it or Jack just a little bit about it, they come with the rationale real quick why it makes sense, so that's just an area that I'm just not very strong in and I can't really give you great answers on because if that's the right thing for them to do, then they need to go do that. And, by the way, I don't want to get involved with it because I need to know what springs we're gonna run this weekend. That's a lot more important to me -- how we run this weekend -- than what they do with their part. Geoff Smith is not telling me how to drive or set my car up this weekend and I really don't need to be trying to tell them how to run their business because they do a good job and I think that they probably don't tell me how to drive because they think I do a pretty good job of what I do. That's kind of where I'm at right now. When I get out from under some of the things I'm under, I may have a chance to look around and know more about the company and all those kinds of things, but you've got to remember I'm doing 64 races this year, battling to get in the chase, and now that I'm in the chase I'm not talking a championship that much, I'm talking about trying to have a good time, but if we fiddle around and win this race this weekend, the race is on for the Cup. We've only run one, but if we have a great weekend, this Cup chase could fire up for the 6 car."

HAVE YOU AND PAT PUT ANY EXTRA WORK INTO THIS YEAR TO TRY AND WIN THE CUP? "Really, the effort in '06 has not been one ounce more than it was in '05. As a matter of fact, from my standpoint, I am not stressing as much as I did last year. I really, really tried real hard to win it last year. I'm gonna drive the fool out of that race car, but I am not gonna lay awake at night these last 10 races. This is the last 10 races after 19 years and I've laid awake at night most of those races and I'm not gonna do it. I'm gonna drive the fool out of the race car and I'm gonna leave it to Jack Roush and Pat Tryson to give me some good stuff, and if it doesn't work out, you know what, I made the chase and we've had a great year. We're right on the verge of greatness. We've got nine races to go and we could have a great year. We could have the best year of my career, or we could have a good year. It could go any of those ways. In these last nine races it's possible people could say, 'He had the best year of his career,' but stuff will have to click in order for that to happen and we'll just see. I'm very proud of what we've been able to accomplish and I'm not gonna let it get me down if it doesn't work out."

WOULD IT BE FOOLISH TO UNDERESTIMATE SOMEBODY LIKE JEFF GORDON IN THE CHASE? "I think it's foolish to underestimate anyone in it. This is what the chase is designed to do, it's designed to bring excitement and every single one in the chase, and at least one outside the chase, could have won the deal. At bare minimum, Tony got shut out of an opportunity to race at a championship, so to answer your question, heck yes. Jeff Gordon and his team can step up to the plate and get it done, but don't think that Denny Hamlin can't do it; don't think that Jeff Burton can't do it. It would be a mistake. The race is on and as we go forward, we've got one race down and it's put a couple of guys in a hole, but I don't believe that you can count anyone out yet because that hole kind of moves around from race to race. I think it's gonna be great. I think we need to all sit back and watch it with great enthusiasm."

YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A REALIST, BUT YOU SEE MORE OPTIMISTIC THIS YEAR. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU SEE AND WHY THE CHANGE? "It feels like to me that things are harder for me this year than ever before and I say that meaning there is so much competition out on the race track and there are so many obstacles in between me and getting that great performance. There are obstacles and they're all small, but they're just everywhere and it makes my job incredibly difficult. From every little aspect of it it's so competitive, so I feel my job is more difficult than it's ever been and I'm not 27 anymore either. Whether or not that makes it more difficult, I can't tell you, but I can say this -- the job is more difficult. One of the things that changed the way I look at things is, and I told you guys this, Kenny Wallace called me a pessimist and I said I was done with that and I'm a man of my word. I am a realist, but my glass is not half empty, it's all the way full. I have bad days, and I'm hard on myself, and I'm a fierce competitor, and I've been mad more times this year than I have any year of my career because I'm such a fiery competitor, but my glass is all the way full. I've done more and experienced more and been blessed with more than I ever dreamed. Now, to answer your question about being less optimistic or at least more level, the bottom line is I have to protect myself. I can't be like Rusty Wallace. Rusty Wallace said before every race he ever drove, 'I'm gonna win.' That would break my heart because if I said that, I would believe it and he didn't win every race. He won a lot of races, more than I did, but he didn't win every one of them and I can't deal with that. Disappointment has been a big part of my career and for me to deal with the disappointments that I have in my career, I can't expect to win here Sunday. I can't deal with that. What I can expect is to run good and to give everything we've got, and if I do that and we win, it's a great day. If I do that and we don't win, then I did just what I said I was gonna do -- I was gonna give it everything that I had. So that's sort of how I've dealt with that stuff."

IF YOU WIN ON SUNDAY AND THE POINTS FALL IN YOUR FAVOR, DOES THAT SLEEPLESS NIGHT THING CHANGE? "Of course it does. I wish it wouldn't, but, of course. You know it will and I know it's out there, I'm just not gonna deal with it until it lands in my lap. I'm trying real hard to appreciate the 19 years that I've had -- the great experience that I've had -- and trying to have some fun with this and say that we finished it off in style, with class and with dignity and move on. But there is a chance that that falls in my lap and when it does I'll deal with it. I've dealt with it for a long time. I dealt with it all summer long. Most people didn't know this, but I've been concerned all summer that we weren't gonna make the chase and it was gonna be sad because we had championship contending type of effort, but we just bumbled up so many things. We were just a step off here and a step off there, but the ingredients to the 6 car have been as good as they've ever been in any year of my career this year, and the potential of the 6 car has been as good or better than any year I've ever had, and even though we haven't have breathtaking results, they've been right there. And that's one of the biggest frustrations for me for 2006 is that it's been so close to being breathtaking. I understand with the competition being as tough as it is today it's hard to get to that level and, man, I want to capitalize on it. I realize this is the last go-round and I'd much rather be breathtaking than just OK."

HOW CLOSE ARE YOU TO SIGNING THE TRUCK CONTRACT FOR NEXT YEAR? "They're working on it. They've been in contact, so they're working on it now. That's a step further than last week. I can't imagine any other scenario for me in 2007 but racing the No. 6 truck and I'm actively working right now to try to secure sponsorship for the 60 car for 10-12 races. It's not done, but that's where the focus is as of today."

HAS ROBERT YATES TALKED TO YOU? "It's unlikely at this point in time. I have had one conversation with Doug quite a while ago, but that's just not very likely. My heart is not in a full-time Nextel Cup deal. Things aren't finalized yet, but my heart is not in a full-time deal. It wasn't a year ago either, and they got my heart into it. We're only a few weeks away from having that all settled, but, to answer your question, there is paperwork being worked on because there has been contact with my people on details of how it was to be structured. The terms of the contract are agreed upon. We don't have a problem with that. I think all of that is agreed on and now it's just a matter of getting it on black and white and getting it structured the way we want it and all that stuff, and pursuing sponsorship, which really hasn't started until this week. I did have a conversation with Geoff Smith yesterday and Jack let him know this week that that is something I not only would like to do, but I really do want to do. I really do want to do a limited Cup schedule to complement their truck program that they're gonna offer me. That's where we are today. Obviously, we haven't talked about it a lot, but there are a lot of opportunities -- more than I ever expected might come up -- and those things have been rolling around out there. They're a couple of weeks away, probably, from being all shut down because, like I say and like I've always said, I want to do what I want to do, not what somebody else wants me to do. For 19 years I've really done everything that they've asked me to do at Roush Racing, and going forward I'm having to keep reminding myself -- what is it that I want to do? I've got to keep my eye on that target and do what I want to do and not what someone else wants me to do."

WHY DO YOU PREFER TO DRIVE THE TRUCK FULL-TIME AND NOT A CUP CAR? "Thirteen weekends off is what I'm looking at. If I could drive a Cup car that could win and would get me 13 more weekends off than what I have this year, then I would do it. But the Trucks are fun. They're more fun. In my opinion, it's better racing and more fun than Nextel Cup, but I would Nextel Cup if somebody could offer me 13 weekends off more than what I have this year. This is another thing I will tell you guys. I'm not closing the door. I go do this Truck thing and I get a chance to catch my breath, I would say that there is a good chance that I'd come back full-time in '08. I don't know what I want to do and I'll never know until I get a break. I haven't had a day off, I don't feel like, in 19 years. Yes, I've had a day off, but I haven't missed a test, I haven't missed a practice day or a qualifying day or a race day in 19 years and every year I do more and more and more to stay competitive. I don't know what I want to do until I slow down and it ain't gonna slow down unless I step aside. I've known I wanted to step out of the 6 car since 2000. It didn't just come yesterday. I've known since 2000 that 2005 was gonna be it and the people around me laughed at me. Jack and Geoff Smith, they all thought that was a crock. I'm definitely ready to do something new. If I was to come back to Nextel Cup, I'd like to do something fresh. I rode that car long and hard, man, and it's been good and I need a break."


DO YOU HAVE A NUMBER? "Oh now, I wouldn't do that. There is not a realistic number, but I did not close the door on Nextel Cup because, like I explained before, I want to follow my heart. I want to do something that's fun. I haven't seen any scenario in Nextel Cup racing yet that is exciting enough for me to do that. I had to think long and hard about it because I've been so surprised by opportunities, but I want to stay true to what I want and I want those 13 weekends off. I really haven't put a price on them. I was joking but I was serious last weekend. I don't need a job, so if I was younger, if my son wasn't nearly grown up. You have to remember, I stepped out of the 6 car, I didn't get pushed out. In fact, I stepped out a year ago and got pushed in so to speak, and I'm glad I did it. Don't take that wrong. I'm really glad that I came back and did this year. I'm so grateful to Jack Roush and I'm so grateful to Geoff Smith, and especially AAA for the important work I've done with AAA. I hope to be able to do some work with AAA going forward because working with teen driving safety has probably been the most important work that I've ever done in my career -- used my celebrity and notoriety to hopefully spread that word and help further that very important cause. I'm really proud of AAA, so it's been great. I don't regret it at all. The potential to have the best year of my career is right here in front of me if it works out. If it doesn't, it's still a good one and as of right now, I haven't put a price on those 13 weekends."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Rusty Wallace , Kenny Wallace , Jack Roush , David Ragan , Denny Hamlin , Todd Kluever , Erik Darnell , Mark Martin