Ford Racing, Mark Martin update

On Monday, Nov. 22, 1999, Mark Martin underwent lumbar fusion surgery. The procedure was performed by Dr. Chuck Kollmer and was deemed a success. Martin made his first public appearance since the surgery at the T. Wayne Robertson NASCAR Winston...

On Monday, Nov. 22, 1999, Mark Martin underwent lumbar fusion surgery. The procedure was performed by Dr. Chuck Kollmer and was deemed a success. Martin made his first public appearance since the surgery at the T. Wayne Robertson NASCAR Winston Cup Preview in Winston-Salem, N.C. last Saturday (Jan. 15) and spoke about his recovery.

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus -- "The first five and a half weeks were pretty rough. I tried to follow doctor's orders as much as possible and I think I was a really good patient. I had one day where I had a little bit of a lapse of judgement, but other than that, I laid down 22 hours a day. That's pretty hard to do. I was a good boy, except Jeff Burton came down to visit me one day, the second day I got home from the hospital, and I've felt good ever since the surgery -- I haven't had any pain. I got up and took Jeff to lunch and looked at his airplane and some stuff and when I came in the phone was ringing and it was my doctor who said, 'Hey, we can do this all over again, but you won't race Daytona.' Then a couple of hours later my back swelled up, so I figured after that I better be doing what he said. After I saw him five and a half weeks out, we got a chance to get out and start doing more activity -- getting up and walking around. This week was seven weeks and, man, I feel like a brand new person. My strength is coming back, my stamina is coming back, I'm pain-free and I'm really, really excited about what my future holds for me. I had no idea I was in as much pain as I was and how much it was really ruining the quality of my life, so I'm feeling good and I'm excited. I'm excited to be here and see everybody."

DO YOU WISH YOU WOULD HAVE HAD THIS SURGERY A YEAR AGO? "What happened a year ago was I was prepared for a different surgery. I was scheduled to go in the Tuesday or Wednesday after Atlanta, but I had a setback with my blood work because I had a cold and my white blood cell count was down from the cold and they couldn't do the surgery. That set it back a couple or three more days, and, then, I also found out while I was there that instead of doing minor surgery of removing a fragment, that it wasn't necessary anymore. I asked them about the pain and they said you need fusion for that. Well, I spent almost a year preparing for taking a fragment out and I was almost already a week behind, so I wasn't prepared for fusion. Mentally, I didn't know if that's what I wanted to do and I just wanted to go home, so that's what I did. (This year) I went in and they rolled me into the operating room at 7 a.m. Monday after Atlanta and that's really the way it needed to be because I wanted to use every ounce of time I had for recovery. Today I feel good. I have no regrets of anything I've ever done behind me, it's all for a good reason I think."

WHEN YOU WERE LYING THERE, WAS IT THE FACT YOU WERE INVESTING THAT TIME SO YOU COULD RACE AT DAYTONA THAT ALLOWED YOU TO DO IT? "One of the things that really helped me with that, with 22 hours a day, is that I did get to get up for 20 minutes five times a day and a couple of those were in the morning. In the morning I'd get up and go to the office, get my phone and notebook pad and pen, lay on my stomach and I'd lay it up on me and we'd still take care of business. We signed a really exciting endorsement deal with Pfizer doing the Men's Health initiative and I think that's something that's really neat that we're gonna be involved in. I'm really excited about it because I think it's a chance for the race car drivers to give something back to the fans and, hopefully, help them learn more about men's health issues. Also, Matt and I signed an endorsement deal with Race Warriors, the comic book, that I think is gonna be an exciting thing and I'm happy to have Matt involved with me with that comic book. The phone still rang and I still worked on organizing and setting things up and the 15th was the first domino to fall -- today. From here on I've got something to do every single day until Speedweeks start with commercials to shoot and appearances and everything else. The thing that got me through everyday was going to the office and taking care of business, just like I would have if I hadn't had the problem. That's really what got me through. I don't think I could have done it in my house, in my bedroom, that long but there's a lot of activity that went on that kept my mind preoccupied."

WHEN DO YOU PLAN TO ACTUALLY SIT IN A WINSTON CUP CAR AND WILL THERE BE ANY EXTRA PADDING OF SOME SORT WITH THE SEAT? "The most comfortable place in the world for me has been in my race car seat prior to surgery, so I assume it will continue to be that way going forward. I don't anticipate any problems at all. I don't know if my seat will be in the cars or not, but the cars will be at Daytona next week Thursday and Friday (Jan. 20-21), and I've got an appointment to see my doctor on Thursday mid-morning and then plans to go out to the race track. The way things are going real well, he said I could take some laps if I wanted to. I originally told him that I didn't need to, it wasn't important to me, but I probably will take the car out once or twice to make sure I don't see any red lights glaring somewhere that Greg (Kollmer) hasn't seen or something like that. But it's not necessary, I don't have to be in the race car until February 11th and this is something that will effect me for the rest of my life and that's why I followed doctor's orders. I didn't have a choice when I broke my knee this summer, I kept on digging' and I'll have a bum knee forever because of that, but I'm not gonna do that with my back. I have time, I didn't do it in the middle of the season, I didn't have to miss a race and restrictor-plate testing anybody could do. It's not something that having me involved in it will have any impact on how the car runs. They've already been to Talladega and tested and I think they were the fastest Ford and I've never done that before, so from now on I'm hiring someone to do my plate testing."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ROOKIE CROP COMING IN THIS SEASON? "Obviously, there's some tremendous talent in the rookie group. The greatest performances are expected from Matt (Kenseth) and Dale, Jr. (Earnhardt), but you have a tremendous race car driver like Scott Pruett. Some of you may not realize what a tremendous race car driver he is, but they will be plagued with true rookie blues more than Matt or Dale, Jr. because of their experience in Busch cars and their contacts with other successful Winston Cup teams. Matt is my pick and I just think he's tremendous. I wouldn't have started trying to help him realize his dreams a couple of years ago if I didn't feel real strong about him. He's real deserving and he's the type of person that worked for and earned and deserved a break. All I was able to do and all Roush Racing has been able to do is shortcut him a little bit. He would have gotten to the top of Winston Cup racing no matter who helped him or who didn't or who saw his potential -- he would have gotten there. I just saw it and kind of pushed Roush Racing along to let him reach his potential sooner than later."

WAS THERE A CONCERN ABOUT THE NOISE IN THE CAR? "I'm not concerned about being comfortable in the race car, but what you're referring to about the noise in the race car is that just as I don't care to be a crippled old man I don't care to be deaf either. These cars are ridiculously loud and we don't seem to be able to get any mufflers mandated for 'em, so one of the projects over the winter was to see if we could cut down some on the noise that was getting to my ears, so I didn't have to turn the radio up so loud that I had a migraine headache when the race is over. I can't hear what they're saying on the radio, so I turn the radio up so loud that it tickles the inside of my ears and I don't thing that's healthy. I came up with three things for my race team to do over the winter and none of them had anything to do with performance. One of them was to make sure the remote control in the transporter works for the TV and one of them was to see if we could get the noise situation cut down, which we can, but nobody has been looking into that. That's one area that's been totally overlooked that should be done. I can't remember what the other one was, but it was also a creature comfort kind of thing. What that tells me is that I've got a great race team that already has the performance end of it covered."

FINAL COMMENTS -- "I want to make one comment for everybody here. This is my first thing that I've done since the surgery and it was very important to me to be here and to honor and remember T. Wayne (Robertson) and to get out and see everybody -- the media and the fans. Even after the season there is so much typically when you're in good health going on that you really don't get away from the sport. I've spent seven weeks totally away from the sport and I didn't realize what a difference that really makes and how much I really missed it. I have a bigger smile on my face this year than I've ever had since I started racing, I think, and I will embrace this season with more enthusiasm. I'm committed to continuing that enthusiasm through the year, if any way possible, for taking care of the people who take care of this sport that we love so much."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Scott Pruett , Mark Martin