MARK MARTIN, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, heads into this weekend's race in sixth place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings with six races before the Chase for the Championship. Martin met with reporters behind the team's hauler...
MARK MARTIN, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, heads into this weekend's race in sixth place in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings with six races before the Chase for the Championship. Martin met with reporters behind the team's hauler prior to today's first practice session.
MARK MARTTIN -- No. 6 AAA Fusion
HOW DO YOU RATE INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY IN TERMS OF PRESTIGE, PLACES YOU'D LIKE TO WIN? "It's right up there. It's right up there behind the Daytona 500. Different reasons make this race, to me, different heights on the stick there. One is, this race track has more history than anything we get involved in. From a NASCAR, stock car, point of view, the Daytona 500 carries a little bit more, so one has a little bit more of one thing and the other has a little bit more of something else."
SIX RACES BEFORE THE TOP 10 IS SOLIDIFIED. DO SENSE THAT DRIVERS ARE STARTING TO SCRAMBLE MORE AND DRIVE A LITTLE BIT MORE DIFFERENTLY? "No, I think that everybody's been racing pretty hard all year."
AND THAT WILL KEEP UP? "It's always the way it is in NASCAR. There's a lot of competition and we have a lot of great drivers and a lot of great cars and we have a number of young drivers that are very optimistic about what they can do, so it makes it interesting out there."
WITH SIX RACES TO GO, YOU'RE IN THE TOP 10 RIGHT NOW, BUT FROM HERE OUT WILL YOU BE CONSERVATIVE, AGGRESSIVE? "We'll race. The same. The same as I've been doing for 30 years. Try to win 'em all. We give everything we've got every time we get within 100 yards of a race car."
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL ON THIS TRACK. THIS TRACK IS A LITTLE DIFFERENT... "This race track is a lot different, but, really, at the end of the day, if you throw out the restrictor-plate races, it's the same as everywhere else as far as being competitive. You've got to go these corners really fast. It's a given that you have to have a great car to do that, and you have to have great engines to pull 'em down these straightaways, but that's a given, too. You would have to have, I would say, great equipment, but at the end of the day you just have to go through the corners faster than everybody else if you want to put a whuppin' on 'em."
THERE'S TALK OF CHANGING THE CHASE FOR NEXT YEAR. DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS ON HOW IT SHOULD BE? "The only thing that I really see -- I really believe that it should be the top 10. I think for the fans, which I probably be one of next year, I think the point system after the Chase starts should be 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. Plain as that, for those guys that are in the Chase. I, personally, don't think there should be huge bonuses for winning or anything else. If we want to make this things a show, and it's all about show business and everything else and I'm going to get to be watching instead of participating, then I want to see them go into Homestead at the last race with at least five of the 10 having a shot at the championship."
YOUR OLD TEAMMATE JEFF BURTON IS HAVING A REALLY GOOD YEAR. EVERYONE SAID THAT HE DIDN'T FORGET HOW TO DRIVE THIS YEAR. IS IT A MATTER OF RCR GETTING ITS STUFF TOGETHER OR IS THESE SOMETHING MORE TO IT? "The driver can help the equipment or the equipment can help the driver, but in today's age, out here, you have to have both. And there are no drivers out here that can't get it done. And there is some equipment out here that has all the resources to get it done, but can't get it done in the form that it's in. And that goes in cycles, no matter if you're Richard Childress or Jack Roush or anybody else -- your equipment sometimes is very potent and sometimes it's not, for a lack of resources or people who are working or talent or anything. It's just where you are in that cycle."
ARE YOU HAPPY TO SEE HIM DO THAT WELL? "I'm real happy for Jeff. I believe that he's going to win real soon and I'm going to be cheering."
HOW IS ROUSH'S EQUIPMENT RIGHT NOW? GREG BIFFLE SAID THAT IT'S LOST A LITTLE BIT OF ITS DOMINANCE FROM LAST SEASON. "Our stuff was superior last year and our stuff is real good this year, but it's not superior as it was last year. For us, this year, we have to be on target. If we want to have a great showing we have to be a little bit more on target than we did last year."
HOW IMPORTANT IS THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DRIVER AND HIS CREW CHIEF? "In this business today, there are no crew chiefs, I don't think, currently here in the garage, that can't get it done. As well as drivers. But different combinations get different results, and as frustrating as it might be, that's just how it is. Once you get a combination that's working, if you can keep that relationship strong and solid, then you're going to have a good run for a long time. But sometimes that gets derailed and sometimes you're able to get it back on track and sometimes you need to change the combination up some."
DOES THE SUCCESS OF THAT RELATIONSHIP DEPEND MORE ON PERSONALITY OR KNOW-HOW OF THE DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF INVOLVED? "It's both, but the know-how is knowing how to make a marriage work or make a relationship work or communication or knowing how to play well with others. There's a lot of things that are involved there. It's just human beings working together, and that's just like a marriage or anything else. Sometimes it gets strained and sometimes it really goes well."
WOULD YOU SAY THE BREAK-UP RATE BETWEEN DRIVERS AND CREW CHIEFS IS HIGH IN NASCAR? "I think it's just normal. I don't think it's high. I certainly don't think it's low. I think when you're in a competitive business like this you have to do whatever you need to do to try to continue to be at the top of your performance. And it's a performance-based business."
WHEN PEOPLE TALK ABOUT GOOD BEHAVIOR ON THE TRACK, THE QUESTION IS WHAT WOULD MARK MARTIN DO? WHEN YOU RETIRE, WHICH DRIVER WILL THEY TEN BE TALKING ABOUT? WHICH DRIVER WILL SET THE STANDARD FOR WHAT'S APPROPRIATE? "Jeff Burton comes to my mind right away, not only on the race track but off the race track. Jeff Burton sets a great example for everybody in NASCAR. From the drivers' standpoints to anyone involved in this sport can look to him and pattern their thought process and their actions, really, after Jeff Burton."
WHEN YOU CAME INTO THE CIRCUIT WAS THERE ANYBODY THAT YOU PATTERNED YOURSELF AFTER? "No, not really. Not in that respect. I certainly did admire a lot of drivers, but I never really -- there was less focus on that at that time and I tried to keep my focus on race-track stuff and working well with the media, because I knew that was going to be important, and those kinds of things."
WITH INCREASED COMPETIVENESS AND INTENSITY THESE DAYS, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO REMAIN POLITE ON THE TRACK OR TO NOT BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF BECAUSE OF BEING POLITE ON THE TRACK? "I don't see a lot of taken advantage of going on. But it is real competitive and it is a real frustrating business. It's all I can do from time to time to control my emotions, and I may have more control than some. But it still takes everything that I have from time to time to keep things in check. The thing that I've found is keeping 'em in check sometimes after all the dust settles, I find that the whole situation didn't look like I thought I saw it, and that I was wrong, and I had I not kept myself in check would've been even more embarrassed of what I had done and how I may have reacted based on things not really being as I thought they were."
HOW ARE THINGS GOING WITH YOUR SON, MATT? "Matt's doing good. I think he's racing next weekend at New Smyrna with a Super Late Model. He's 14 years old and he's getting a chance to drive some pretty fast cars."