Continued from part 1 Q: That's a really good point. And cool of you to mention that. I want to ask you about the race on Sunday. You said you were going to maybe have a cook-out at your house for friends that lived in your ...
Continued from part 1
Q: That's a really good point. And cool of you to mention that. I want to ask you about the race on Sunday. You said you were going to maybe have a cook-out at your house for friends that lived in your neighborhood. I'm guessing you'll have to buy a bigger TV. The fans have all kinds of things hooked up to watch it. How would you watch a race? Do you have a big screen or something?
MARK MARTIN: Yes, I've got a nice 42-inch plasma and Tivo. So I'll be replaying the wrecks moving them back and going forward and watching them in slow motion. So I will sorely be disappointed if there isn't lots of wrecks, because it seems like there sure is every time I go -- every time I'm in the race there.
So there probably will be again. I think that it's going to be interesting seeing the car tomorrow in its first race. Seriously, I'm just going to hang out. Barbecue a little bit and hang out and watch the race.
But the biggest thing, I expect to be having a blast Saturday night with Ricky and Matt and everyone. And I look forward to just being relaxed on Sunday.
Q: Mark, kind of a follow-up to what Claire asked. Having been a four time series runner-up and now having the points lead and stepping back for the next couple of races, was it kind of a heart wrenching decision to make? Was it really hard to come to that final decision to not race these next two races?
MARK MARTIN: No, I've done it for 621. (Chuckling) you know, the people that are saying that they can't believe it, they haven't lived it. Not only have I been doing it for 19 years straight, but I've been doing it successfully for 19 years straight.
I've only had one year that really wasn't a great year by anyone's standards. Been in the top 10 in points every year but three in 19. So you know with that comes great responsibility to your sponsors, to the media, to the fans and to your team, to continue all those expectations and to continue to fight for a championship.
You don't want to this year, so it hasn't been gut wrenching at all. I mean I've had mixed emotions but it's not been about the championship. It's about racing in general. But I'm excited that I don't have to worry about chasing the championship and making the chase.
And it's been a lot of stress for a lot of years and I don't have that weight on my shoulders anymore. Certainly don't have it in 2007.
Q: Not necessarily because of the Daytona 500, but what do you think there is about Harvick that makes him such a rival and tough driver out there?
A. Well, Kevin is a driven, incredibly talented, driven young man, who has really focused on what he does and has been since the first time I saw him drive a Craftsman truck.
Q: Mark, I heard somebody talk the other day about if there wasn't a chase you might have a different perspective on continuing your season. Is that an accurate statement? If there was no chase, if it was the old point system, would you consider continuing the season and racing every race this year?
MARK MARTIN: No, I don't even understand what kind of logic went behind that. I don't understand that. I've been planning on cutting back for quite some time now. And just had to forego that plan in 2006 in order to help out, bail out the team I love, the car that I felt very much a part of, the No. 6 car. And Jack Rausch who was responsible for most of the success I've had in NASCAR.
Now I'm carrying out that plan. Just had a delay, a bump in the road but now I'm carrying out that plan. And I'm not interested in chasing that championship. I've done that for 19 years and I've had a great career. And 2007 isn't the year to do that anymore.
I have got some other things that I'm very interested in doing, pursuing. And my life, there are portions of my life that are passing, have been passing me by. And I'm going to try to capture a couple of little pieces of that at age 48.
It's never too late.
Q: I noticed Jeff Burton was talking with you and he had a bet whether or not you would go to Bristol. What was the bet now that it's pretty much a done deal and what does he owe you?
MARK MARTIN: He didn't bet me. I don't know who the bets were with. I really don't know. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton were the two that were speculating. Neither, I don't think -- I don't know for sure. I know Matt thought that I was going to continue on. And I'm not sure where Burton stood.
But Jeff Burton didn't get a particularly real early start in his career. And he's got -- you give him another eight years and see what he's got to say about it. And you give Matt Kenseth 13 years of this more, see what he says.
The people that are speaking about this stuff, you know, just haven't walked in my shoes yet. And I appreciate -- I certainly appreciate where they're coming from, but I know what I was like when I was 35 years old. Couldn't fathom this day either.
But the schedule sucks every ounce of time that you have. It sucks it all out and I've given everything. And racing has come first in my life, not my family. I haven't had a sick day in 19 years. I haven't missed a day's work.
So I laid out a different schedule for 2007.
Q: Mark, you've been sitting here and we've beat you to death man for the last month about this staying in the car and whatnot. On that note, 621 straight weeks of racing, what's the best day of your career? And I remember it was in '98 what not when you had the bad back problem and your guys had to put you in the race car, what was the worst time?
MARK MARTIN: The worst time of my career was Sunday night after Watkins Glen, when I walked into the hangar and my wife said that my dad had been in a plane crash. And my dad's nickname was Cat, and he was called that because he had to have had nine lives. When she told me that I thought, oh that one probably really hurt. Never dreaming that he could not survive anything.
And we were in a championship battle that year with Jeff Gordon. And we did our deal and buried my dad in a hurry so that I could hurry and get to the racetrack on Thursday at Michigan.
And I raced my Busch car in Michigan and raced the Cup car in Michigan and I led the race and led the race a whole lot and the caution came out. We had the race in the bag. And a caution came out late in the race and, I don't know, whatever exchange in the pit stops that happened, I got passed right at the end.
And the emotion just was more than I could take. And I felt some different about it ever since. I don't know if I should have took a sick day that day or what. But that was the worst day of my career.
And the best day of my career has been so many days of the realization of the incredible respect that has been given to me by the competitors and the fans. And especially all the cheers on every driver introduction for the last year, that's what's the best day -- those are the best days of my career.
Q: Ricky, how much have you actually done in a stock car to get ready for this?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: I have a little bit of time, obviously, now under my belt. Enough to where I don't have to count no more. But obviously I still lack many, many, many hours. But that's part of the process. And I'm looking forward to getting much more seat time and just super excited that it's starting this weekend.
Q: I remember you watching Jeremy off the track I think in your first race. How tough is it going to be for you to just take things easy and not go for the front, even though you know that --
RICKY CARMICHAEL: I think I've learned a lot through my motocross career and supercross career to have them patience. And I know it's going to take a while to get where we want to be and to get to our goal.
And we have to do what we have to do. And as far as me doing anything, I don't think that I'm going to be the guy that's doing anything. I think that I'm going to have a bullet on my back or the car, there's no doubt about it. But it seems that it's been that way for my whole career in motorcycle racing. So I'll be used to it.
It won't bother me. It's not if it's going to happen, it's when it's going to happen. I'm not out there to ruffle any feathers. I'm more interested on taking care what I have to do and progressing and trying to make this whole deal happen and look at the long-term goal, where Regan and Mark are.
Q: You worked with Jeff Bendick when you first came up there with Kawasaki. Now you have a guy like Mark. How lucky are you to have two veteran guys like that to help you out and are there any similarities between the two?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Absolutely. Jeff was really good at looking beyond and not just looking lap for lap and looking at the big picture. And he was very, very good mentally. It always seemed like he said the right things. And I don't really like for people to sugar coat things. If you're having a bad day and you're not cutting the mustard you need to be told that you're no good. But at the same time there's a certain way of going about it and just from the times that I've been able to work with Mark, he gives me that confidence that I really need at this stage.
If he's blowing smoke or not it makes me feel really good. But he's been incredible for me. He's ridden a motorcycle in his day. And there are a lot of things that relate.
And it's been a pleasure and I have a lot of trust in him and I listen to every word he says and it's just an honor. That's what I told everybody. When I did my deal again and I heard that he was coming, I could not believe it. And it's simply been a pleasure. And I'm blessed to have him in my corner. There's no doubt about it.
Q: Wanted to ask Mark, in the last few years the sports scene, new structure for the points, the Lucky Dog rule and now there's Car of Tomorrow among other things. With your vast years of experience in the sport is this a more proactive period on NASCAR's part in making changes, or did you see this even years ago more so than maybe I did since I wasn't around in those years?
MARK MARTIN: No, there's more changing. But the world is changing faster, too. There's an enormous growth. You have more people, more brilliant minds working at NASCAR today than you had years ago, more fans, sponsors, more owners, obviously more coverage. More guys like you covering the sport so sure things are moving faster now than they did when I first got involved in the early 80s.
I think that the chase is the outstanding. It's fantastic. I think that some of the growth is really cool and some of the growth is maybe not so cool.
The one thing we all have to remember is that time can't sit still. Nothing ever sits still. And change is inevitable in almost every aspect of our lives.
Q: With that being said, how did the recent changes impact you as a driver, have to change how you do things and can you imagine somebody like Regan now who is just starting out, what he may be going through as his career goes from the last 10, 15, 20 years, what he'll experience.
MARK MARTIN: You know the driver, this is not the correct wording for it, but in the '80s the driver was the engineer. The driver was the guy that brought the wealth of knowledge and leadership to the team. Of course you had Jake elders and some of the guys that always their cars really ran good.
But still the team relied on the driver so much for direction on things. That's not the case anymore. We have engineering and so much high tech involved in the sport that now it is the sheer youth, skill, fearless, you know some of the things that are sharper when you're maybe younger than when you're older and yet that experience that you gain along the way isn't that big a premium as it was in the early days.
What I'm saying is the sport, along with the schedule, is becoming a young man's sport. And it will be very rare to see 50-year-old drivers that started at 20. 25-year careers in today's age at today's pace, which it will only get even greater, I don't think you're going to see that. I think the drivers will be burned out, as well as the crews, as well.
The schedule is the thing that I love racing and that's why I'm going to continue to drive race cars. But the schedule is what has driven a wedge, I think, in between some of the guys that have been in this sport so long. Especially if they've worked incredibly hard and been very successful. The more successful you are, the higher the demand is on you and the more it wears you down.
Q: Thank you. Ricky, we've got the supercross series coming here this weekend. Obviously a lot of people in this town wishing you hung around for one more week. But I was just wondering, when you came into that series, you were kind of replacing a legend with Jeremy McGrath, and now James Stewart is kind of facing that same situation, becoming the face of the sport in place of you. I wanted to ask you about some of the pressures maybe that he'll be feeling in being the man now?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: It's a tough role. And for me it was the physical part of it was the easy thing. It can mentally wear on you, like Mark was saying. It's so mentally tough on you.
And for me, the 10 years, I was always winning a championship and you were always under the gun to defend it. He's going to be under the same thing now. And you know it's his job as the champion and being the guy of the sport to take it to that next level as I tried to do after Jeremy left. Now he's the next guy to do that.
And it's a lot going on and it's a lot happening. So you definitely find out what people are made of in times like these. And for him, I think him being an African American, I think it's going to be tough for him to stay in that position for too long, because he has so many opportunities.
But it's going to be tough. But if he can surround himself with good people that have his best interests at heart and in mind, I think he can do it. But I'd be surprised if he makes it as long as I did or Jeremy did, just because of the opportunities that will come to him.
Continued in part 3