Fontana: Martin - Friday media visit

MARK MARTIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 THE PRINCIPAL FINANCIAL GROUP IMPALA SS, met with media members on Friday at California Speedway and talked about making his 700th start, his career, the IROC Series, his chances in Sunday's race and more. ON ...

MARK MARTIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 THE PRINCIPAL FINANCIAL GROUP IMPALA SS, met with media members on Friday at California Speedway and talked about making his 700th start, his career, the IROC Series, his chances in Sunday's race and more.

ON MAKING HIS 700TH START THIS WEEKEND "That's a lot of races. It's amazing to reflect back. It's made me reflect back on my first race back in North Wilkesboro in 1981. I've been real fortunate, worked with a lot of great people, drove a lot of fast race cars. To me it's not so important how many times I've started but how fast I went when I started them. I managed to go fast a lot with the help of a lot of great race teams and good help."

ON BEING ABLE TO HAVE FUN "I think it's because I'm getting to run the schedule that I really want to run and I'm working with really great people and that's real important to me. I was in the garage at 8:00 this morning because there's nowhere else I rather be than around my extended family. Tony Gibson and the guys that work on this car, that's one thing that is really important to me is the camaraderie that we have and experience. That part of it I really enjoy. I love going fast on the race track and these guys are going to give me a great race car this weekend. We had a good test out here that also makes it fun."

ON WHO WOULD PLAY HIM IF A MOVIE WERE MADE ABOUT HIM "Gosh, I don't know. I have no idea. I couldn't tell you."

TOM CRUISE MAYBE? "He's way too cool to play me. It's hard for me to think of the right person. Maybe the guy who played Napoleon Dynamite." (laughter)

ON WHAT RACES COME TO MIND WHEN REFLECTING ON HIS CAREER. "I can go on and on and on about races and I'm sure you would be surprised about why I remember those particular ones. I can wear you out with them. The first race, I had never experienced putting the green out when it was sprinkling. NASCAR does that; you know the green and the yellow. They start the race under caution; I'd never experienced that. Well I almost had a heart attack. I qualified fifth. I had never driven a car that had a rear end cooler fan ever, so I didn't take this as a serious thing because we weren't really going. I didn't turn it on when we started the engine and of course I burned up the rear end gear. They did finally throw the green flag but I didn't remember to turn the switches on and burned up the rear end gear, for example.

"I remember Martinsville that year because I ran third. This won't tell anything to anybody except the guys in this garage. I ran third at Martinsville with GM brakes. Single-piston brakes with a 3/8-inch brake pad. Now they've got about a 1 1/4" brake pad. Something that no one ever thought you could do or could ever do again. I know I could never do it again, I tell you that. I don't know how I did it.

"For example, just a lot of great things in my career something that comes to mind that wasn't prior to NASCAR was not running the right rear spring. Running three springs, setting the track record and winning at Winchester with my late model and becoming a late model legend because I could run a three-spring race car. There's just been all kinds of stuff. There's all kinds of weird stuff. I don't believe I've mentioned a trophy yet, did I. The trophies are okay and they were great and winning is great but there's a lot along the way.

"Lots of big disappointments as well, I remember a lot of those. I remember running out of gas at Daytona with ten laps to go, which is 25 miles. I never knew anybody could miss it that far. I hadn't had a win yet. I remember running second six times before we got our first win and that could have been it but we ran out of gas 25 miles too soon."

DID THE GETTING CLOSE BUT NOT WINNING GET AGGRAVATING? "It did not. What got aggravating was, this group (the media) asked me every week, when are you going to win and that was ridiculous. How was I supposed to answer that? I mean we were trying as hard as we could and that was frustrating. I wanted to win bad but I was happy that we were running and if you're knocking out a second every two or three weeks you're going to win and its going to happen. So I was okay with that part of it. It wasn't running me up the wall near like going broke, bankrupt and having to go back short track racing to start over again. I still felt I was in a lot better shape than that."

ON HIS FEELINGS ABOUT THE IROC (INTERNTIONAL RACE OF CHAMPIONS) SERIES "First of all let me tell you something, I am not special. I'm nothing special, I haven't done all that much. I don't consider myself a great driver. I don't put myself in that league, not in the same league with the great drivers of NASCAR. My credentials just don't warrant that. Now, that being said, I ran IROC seven years in a row that I was invited to run and I finished first or second seven years in a row. Nobody could do that. Am I proud of that, yes. Am I proud of what I've done in Cup racing yeah, but I'm not in Jeff Gordon's league. I'm not in Darrell Waltrip's league. I was in Rusty Wallace's league but he won more races than I did, you know what I mean. I'm not in Dale Earnhardt's league in my eyes. In my eyes, I'm not in their league. And as bad as I wanted to be, I just never laid down quite enough to be there. So am I proud of IROC?

"I did that against Jeff Gordon, I did that against Earnhardt, I did that against Al Unser, Jr. I did that against the best of the best. Not only did I win them most of the years but the ones I didn't, I got second. It was awesome. I think the last year was the only year that I didn't run second beside the first year and I was fourth. I think I was fourth, third and one and then like for nine years I was like first or second. It was unbelievable that I got to be in it, I didn't get to be in it every year. So, yeah I'm proud of that. That's the only thing that I ever really did that was in the league with the greats."

ON THE IROC SERIES GOING TO THE WAYSIDE AND HOW HARD IT WAS TO GET ALL THE DIFFERENT DRIVERS FROM DIFFERENT SERIES TO COME TOGETHER IN ONE PLACE TO COMPETE. "It really was, especially in the earlier years. Because in the earlier years it truly was, it got harder and harder to get the guys from the other divisions to come. In the early years it wasn't because it was the International Race of Champions. It was a big deal for a long time. Eventually it got to where you couldn't draw those people to come do it."

IF YOU DON'T PUT YOURSELF IN THE CATEGORY WITH THE GREATS, WHERE DO YOU PUT YOURSELF IN NASCAR AS A WHOLE? "I'm a blue collar man. That's where I place myself in Sprint Cup racing I think. I was the guy who struggled real hard to get here, fell on my face and went home and struggled real hard to get back. Thanks to Jack Roush I had a chance to show what I could do and that ranks where it ranks. You know I never really reached the kind of success that Dale Earnhardt or Jeff Gordon. Rusty Wallace won more race than I did all though I had a lot of success. I had a little more success than a lot of folks that have been involved in this sport, but I don't put myself up there in the category with the greats."

AS A RACE CAR DRIVER AND A COMPETITOR YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME KIND OF COCKINESS. I SENSE THAT WHEN WE TALK TO YOU, WHERE DOES THAT COCKINESS COME FROM? "You need to ask the rest of them that. The guys that know me, I can't tell you that. You ask Jeff Burton, you ask Matt Kenseth. Some of the guys that know me, they could probably answer that. Pride is a big part of everything in racing and every driver in here has a big ego including myself. Don't think I've ever done anything but at the same time I have not done what Dale Earnhardt did and I have not done what Jeff Gordon has done and a number of other drivers. But on the other hand I have done some pretty cool things. I've been very fortunate to drive a lot of fast race cars and work with a lot of great people in a lot of different divisions and I've had a lot of success. It's just some guys have had a lot more."

ON WEATHER AND OTHER CONCERNS FOR THIS SUNDAY'S RACE. "With the kind of test we had here I don't have any concerns for Sunday other than they are predicting for some rain. That's my only concern. Gosh, really good car here for the test. It felt fun to have the garage looking at the No. 8 you know thinking that we were the No. 8. That's cool."

ON EXPECTATIONS OF HOW HE EXPECTS TO RUN IN SUNDAY'S RACE. "I think it's going to be a great race, I really do. I think we've come light years with the car of today from where we were a year ago and I think we will continue to get better. But I think it will be a really good race."

ON THE NATIONWIDE CARS BEING DOWN ON HORSEPOWER AND HOW THAT AFFECTS DRIVING THE CARS. "You hold your foot down longer. Those cars have always been underpowered as opposed to Cup cars. So this is more like the old days. More recently that gap between was closer, now it's more like it used to be. My specialty for some reason is limited horsepower vehicles like the Trucks and the Nationwide cars. I don't know why that is. I've had more success in those divisions than I have had in Cup racing. I look forward to it. I look forward to being in a cooperative effort between Jr. Motorsports, Dale, Jr. and Rick Hendrick. If Dale, Jr. doesn't win in it this weekend, I sure would like to be the first one to do it for those guys and I look forward to it. Can't wait."

ARE YOU RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE RACE THIS WEEKEND? "No, not this week. Next week in Vegas we're going to be in the No. 5 car."

ON HOW A DRIVER SHOULD EXPRESS HIMSELF AND WHEN DOES HE CROSS THE LINE. "I don't know. If I punched somebody out there in the garage I'm sure I'll pay dearly. I don't think they're going to let that go. I don't know. I don't much have to worry about it to be honest with you."

WHY DO YOU THINK NASCAR IS SAYING WE NEED TO SEE MORE OF THE DRIVERS PERSONALITY? "Listen, I appreciate what they're saying but here's what I say. One of the big reasons you don't see the drivers personalities is because this thing has been allowed to make points in the championship everything. It's not about the superheroes the he-men anymore, it's did he score five points or not. It's a bunch of bull. What was great about this sport when I came into it was Cale Yarborough man. It was Jaws. It was David Pearson, the silver fox. We have those guys here.

"We have those kind of people and personalities in the sport, but it's not covered. What's covered is how many points did somebody score and whose the champion or who might be the champion. So that's kind of what they are saying, I'm just saying it in a different way. I'm saying that it's here but in order to grow the sport they figured out a way to make points racing draw media and grow the sport. In over 20 years of doing that they lost covering the real heroes the real he-men of the sport, the individuals, the personalities. A little scuffle is not going to fix that. I don't know what will fix that but there are those kind of personalities in the sport today that were in it when I came in, but they're not covered. So the fans don't know about it."

DO YOU THINK THE MEDIA COULD MAKE IT BACK TO THE WAY IT WAS? "It would be an uphill battle for the media to do that because of where we are today; because of the importance that is put on the Sprint Cup and all that. I'm not laying that blame on the media. I think it was a direction that the sport headed when it needed to grow and it was started that way for a good reason. It was headed in that direction and somewhere along the way we forgot to exploit the character that Terry Labonte was, the character that Rusty Wallace was. At the end we missed that. The individual that Matt Kenseth is, instead of he's boring. That makes me mad. It's only because the coverage of him is boring, it's not because he's boring. He's a cool dude and there's a lot to him. Each one in this garage is a different individual. That's the part to me that I have trouble with."

IN 699 STARTS WHICH ONE DO YOU WISH WOULD HAVE NEVER HAPPENDED? "I've done so many stupid things. I need to put about 50 of them in that category. I don't know that I could just put one. I've had a really lot of disappointments and a number of painful races. In '99 the July race in Daytona, on Friday night I broke my wrist, rib and knee and I raced Saturday night with a cast on my hand and it hurt so bad that I got them to get me a pair of scissors during a caution which is really safe by the way so that I could try to cut the cast off during the race. That's one of those 50."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth , Rusty Wallace , Al Unser Sr. , Cale Yarborough , David Pearson
Teams CIP