MARK MARTIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed what it would mean to win at Indy, what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway means to him, running full-time next year and...
MARK MARTIN, DRIVER OF THE NO. 8 U.S. ARMY IMPALA SS met with members of the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and discussed what it would mean to win at Indy, what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway means to him, running full-time next year and more
Q. Why safe? You're usually more moderate in your pronouncements.
MARK MARTIN: I'm not sure I said exactly what you guys take and run with. I'm not sure I did a Mohammed Ali. You know, I do feel very confident that we'll have a car here that will be strong enough to be a contender to win this race. I might say that every week - maybe. But, you know, believing it deep down inside I usually know that's a bigger challenge than it might be here this week.
I believe that you can run the same stuff here that you can run at Phoenix. And I believe that we had the fastest car on the racetrack at Phoenix. It's that simple.
Q. This racetrack, is it one of those that you feel comfortable on, sort of a track you took to? It's a challenging racetrack.
MARK MARTIN: It is a challenging racetrack. And, no, it wasn't anywhere near my favorite, you know, coming out of the box. I felt like the shape of this racetrack was not conducive for great racing. What happened was I was wrong about that to some degree, and what made me wrong about that was the grinding. That is crucial to the stock cars being able to race well here. In other words, if they repave it, don't grind it, you can come back and (indiscernible) it anyway. It is a good race to race for stock cars, and it's a fun place to race. But it is sensitive to the grinding. We need that additional grip. That grinding that they do, the diamond grinding that they do, gives it additional grip that really makes the stock cars work here.
Q. I heard you say more in the last year, couple years, during the race weekend, Yeah, I feel good about my chances, feel good about my racecar. Seems we've heard that more in the last couple years than we used to. Was there something that changed in you that you became a little more willing to say you felt good about things?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, I was in the 6 car for 19 years. Expectations tend to kill -- expectations can tend to drag you down, you know. My expectations were so high and so hard to meet in the 6 car, you know, that I think had a negative effect on me because the expectations were so high. It was so hard to continue to meet, you know, my expectations for the 6 car, for me in the 6 car.
When I got out of the 6 car, I was so grateful for the opportunity to drive cars that were as good as what I previously felt like weren't good enough. Does that make any sense? I was very grateful for a chance to almost win the Daytona 500 in the 01. I hadn't had that in the 6 car, you know. And I was very grateful the next week when we went to California and we ran fifth, you know, in California. It surprised me. The expectations weren't as high for the 01 as they were. My expectations were not as high, although they were pretty high for Daytona because I'd seen those cars run very well. I'm also very cautious about what I expect.
I think I let the 6 car's expectations drag me down. And I feel like a brand-new person. You know, I feel really, really grateful for the opportunity to drive the 8 car and drive cars that are competitive, very competitive, top 10 cars.
Q. Jeff Burton just said that the opportunity you had the last couple years to get away from the sport makes you appreciate it more when you come back.
MARK MARTIN: Absolutely. No doubt about it. It makes me appreciate all the things that you take for granted. I did this stuff for 19 years. You know, get ground down into the ground, you know. You know, as I stepped back, caught my breath, did the things that I couldn't do before, and was frustrated because I couldn't, didn't have time to do, now that I stepped back, caught my breath, and I've done those things, you know, I really appreciate it all. I feel like I've got it all now, where I felt like my life was one-sided, lopsided before. I feel like I've made a complete circle now, you know, with every aspect.
Q. You grew up in stock cars. You didn't grow up in the south where everybody pointed towards Daytona. You grew up in the Midwest where everything was pointed towards Indy, but in stock cars. What did this track mean for you?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, growing up in Arkansas, coverage wasn't great when I grew up in Arkansas of any motor racing. Obviously, the Indy 500 was the biggest race of all at that time to me. So I thought, you know, the Indy 500 was the deal. As I started in stock car racing, that's when my dad started taking me. I went to Daytona as a spectator in '73, '4, '5, '6 range. You know, that's when I got interested in NASCAR racing. But growing up as a young man in Arkansas, before I started racing, the Indy 500 was "the" race.
Q. Coming to this race must have been like going to Oz?
MARK MARTIN: It was and it wasn't. To me, I didn't feel like I was coming to the Indy 500. You know, we were bringing the stock cars in here, so it felt a little strange. And there was so much hype built up around it that it was too much.
Q. You're not a hype guy, are you?
MARK MARTIN: It was too much for me. It's kind of like when they play the same good song on the radio too many times, just enough's enough.
And what happened was, I grew more fond of this place, the Brickyard 400, with each and every year. I love it now. I love it. I'm excited about being here. I'm excited about the race I had here last year. I'm excited about the race I had the year before in the 6 car here. Great, great runs. So it has really grown on me in its own right. A lot of it has to do with that grinding of the racetrack. It's made it real racy for the NASCAR folks.
Q. Your experience with the other cars, does that contribute to the confidence level you obviously feel coming here?
MARK MARTIN: I think we had a great run with 01 here last year. We had a great run the year before in the 6 car. The confidence really comes from how good the 8 car was at Phoenix and Richmond. I know that this racetrack is not like those places, but the corners are flat. I believe that they have a tremendous flat track setup at the 8 car and I think it's going to work for us here. I expect it to. I know we're all in for a lot of surprises 'cause we haven't tested here or anything with the COT. Everybody's going to be scrambling, but that's another reason why I feel we'll be in such good shape, because I really believe what we used at Phoenix and Richmond will work here and we'll be able to tune around it and maybe hit that target quicker than our competition, a lot of our competition.
Q. I read that you were so confident coming here that you feel like you're going to win, it's like, did they get Mark Martin right?
MARK MARTIN: It wasn't a full-fledged Mohammed Ali, but I do have a lot of confidence coming in here. I know Tony Gibson in the Army team to get it done on pit road. I really, really like the way our car worked at Phoenix and Richmond, and I feel that these corners are a lot like those. I just think that with limited track time here for everyone that we can maybe hit the target closer than most.
Q. When you see stuff like Brett Favre's tearful retirement press conference, now he wants to come back. You said, I'm going to cut back and see what happens. When you see stuff like that, how fortunate do you feel you did things the right way?
MARK MARTIN: I know what he's going through, what he's feeling. I think you can make a mistake to quit too soon. I think some people think it's a huge mistake to stay too long. I've said that's the truth, or I believe that's the truth. And I don't want to stay too long. But I certainly believe that no one could argue the case that I'm staying too long right now based on the results that we're getting on the racetrack. And as long as I'm getting those kind of results, I've had a chance to catch my breath and look around and take stock of my life, and I realize that a huge part of my life is the people at the racetrack, is the race fans, is the crew and the drivers. The friends I have, you know, are a good portion of my life, have been for 35 years. I want some other portions in my life. I've got those squared away right now. I don't want to walk away from something that has been such an important part of my life until I either can't do it or I don't want to do it any more. And neither are the case, you know. Neither are the case, so... Q. How excited were you to get a full-time ride next year? Now that you've had time to think about it, still excited?
MARK MARTIN: I'm real excited about driving the 5 car. I wasn't looking for a full-time ride. But, you know, I had a lot of talks with Rick, and we discussed a lot about the schedule, limited schedule. When it finally boiled right down to it, you know, he did a good car salesman trick. He made me want it really bad, you know, and then he told me it was going to have to be one full schedule. At that point I couldn't give it up.
Q. How did the family take that?
MARK MARTIN: They were involved in it before the decision was made.
Q. How hard is it for I guess any athlete to walk away, especially one that's been successful?
MARK MARTIN: I don't know that you can -- you know, I don't know that I'm bright enough to really truly explain that to you. It's hard to explain something. When you're really, really, really good at something, and you're not really good at anything else, and nothing else gives you the same satisfaction, you know, and you can still do it, then why would you quit, you know? I guess, sure, I wouldn't sign a five-year contract or run full-time for five years. If it was that or quit, I guess I'd have to quit, I'd have to walk away.
The drive, the passion, the fire that makes certain people rise to the very top of their profession is not something that you really -- it's something that's hard to live without.
And until I find something else in my life that I can have that same kind of fire and passion for, I don't know what else I would do. I've enjoyed my time off. I've needed two years of catching my breath and spending time with my family and getting all my affairs in order. But I still want to be involved in racing. And for now that means driving.
Q. As a guy who's come so close to so many things, championships, the Daytona 500 a couple years ago, what would it mean to you personally if at this stage of your career you could walk out of here the winner Sunday night?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, I don't even think about what it would mean to me. I think about what it would mean to DEI and for the U.S. Army team, Tony Gibson, all the guys. They have a real special place in my heart. I want to see their face in Victory Lane.
Q. You have expressed disappointment about coming close at Daytona. I would think winning here would have some effect on you. MARK MARTIN: Don't worry about all that. You can't make a story out of that. We're not worrying about all that. We're going to try to win this race. We're not thinking about 2007. We're gonna try to win this race. 2007 Daytona 500's not on my mind. Nothing will change the results of that or whatever. That's behind us.
Q. What is making all the other teams say they need to watch out for you this year?
MARK MARTIN: We have a very strong race team, the 8 team, Tony Gibson, the U.S. Army team is strong. Our flat track program has been exceptionally strong, especially at Phoenix and Richmond. And I expect that it will be really well here. They have something really working on the flatter racetracks for us. And this team is a team that can do it. You know, we might be due.
- credit: gm racingt