This Week in Ford Racing February 25, 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is off to a good start in 2003 with a pair of top-10 finishes at Daytona and Rockingham. Martin, who finished fifth in the Daytona...
This Week in Ford Racing
February 25, 2003
NASCAR Winston Cup
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is off to a good start in 2003 with a pair of top-10 finishes at Daytona and Rockingham. Martin, who finished fifth in the Daytona 500 and seventh in last weekend's Subway 400, won the inaugural NASCAR Winston Cup race at Las Vegas in 1998. As the series makes its annual return visit this week, Martin spoke about his start and other issues as part of the weekly NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE STATS, YOU AND JEFF BURTON MUST BE THE GUYS TO BEAT.
"Don't forget Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth. We're pretty excited. Ben and the whole team did such a great job at Daytona and Rockingham as well. We had a great car and had a better car than we finished at Rockingham, but we're still pretty pleased with a seventh-place finish. That can be a tough place for people and has been for us sometimes in the past, but we had a great run. We had a little bit of a disappointment right there at the end. On the last run we got a little bit off on our chassis and fell behind, but we're off to a great start. I really have a good team. I'm so thankful for the way things are going for us. My whole package, as long as I've raced in my career, the package is the best it has ever been."
IT'S NOT TOO EARLY TO START COUNTING POINTS IS IT?
"You really need to start somewhere back in the winter time. We did in 2002 and started in January and started doing that back in November for this year. So, yeah, we're gonna give it our best shot. We're gonna try to race smart and be as strong as we can on the race track and try to make no mistakes. We hope we can do an even better job than last year."
IS THIS SEASON MORE IMPORTANT BECAUSE IT'S ON THE BACKSIDE OF YOUR CAREER?
"I don't feel a great sense of urgency because I have had so much success in my career. I don't feel a great sense of urgency, but the fierce competitor in my still views this as the best package I've ever had - the best sponsor, the best people to work with, the team, cars, the whole package is definitely the best I've ever had in my career. I'm feeling really good about that. It's absolutely right, we need to maximize each and every opportunity even more now because you can see the end of the line out there now, whereas 15 years ago you couldn't even imagine something like that. It could be a great year for us. We have all the ingredients. We have the great race team that we had last year with a little bit more polish on it. We can't control the competition, but we can sure do everything we can with the part we do control."
COULD YOU HAVE DREAMED 15 YEARS AGO THAT YOU AND THE SPORT WOULD BE WHERE IT IS TODAY?
"No, because 15 years ago I didn't know if I was gonna make it or not. Even though there are a few things in my career that the media likes to focus on that I haven't done, I have achieved so much. I didn't even know if I was gonna be able to keep a job. In fact, I didn't there for a while in the beginning, so if you take the whole thing in perspective and look at it, you have to say that not only has NASCAR changed dramatically, but I have been really fortunate to have achieved a level of success that I have in it as well."
HOW MUCH IS HARD WORK, PERFECT TIMING AND LUCK?
"I don't think the timing was anywhere near perfect, so I don't think that was any benefit at all. The hard work certainly came at a premium and you have to be lucky to be successful. The best thing that ever happened in my career, by far, was hooking up with Jack Roush. Prior to that, my success in winning races and championships is what put me in a position to get the opportunity with Jack Roush, but the opportunity with Jack Roush is definitely what made my Winston Cup career."
DO YOU NEED A CHAMPIONSHIP FOR YOU TO FEEL LIKE YOUR CAREER IS COMPLETE? "No, I don't. I have a hard time understanding how finishing second in the Winston Cup championship is a bad thing. That's hard for me to understand. I don't quite comprehend where people are coming from and I guess they don't mean it. I think it's a good thing. I've been very successful in Winston Cup and Busch Grand National and IROC and ASA. I have a great career, lots of wins, and that's what has made my career. I will either win every championship that I run for from now on or I won't win any or I'll win some in between. I don't know, but the effort will be the same. I wasn't disappointed with 2002. As a matter of fact, I was incredibly proud of 2002 and I take a lot of pride in what we managed to do in 2002. I hope I can be as proud or prouder of 2003."
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO LAS VEGAS?
"Yeah, I really like that track a lot. I really love the car that we're taking there. I've got a great, great crew and we're off to a good start. I think we're gonna have an interesting weekend."
IS THIS A NEW CAR?
"No, it's real old. This car is four or five years old, but it's refurbished and we've had it out testing twice over the winter. It appears to be my favorite 2003 car so far."
HOW HAS THE LAS VEGAS TRACK CHANGED SINCE WINSTON CUP STARTED RACING THERE?
"It had been around for about three years or so before we started going there and that was a good thing. It hasn't changed dramatically since then. It's become possibly slightly wider on the groove, but it was already widened out to a reasonable two-groove race track the first time we went there. I think the new edge had already worn off of it before Winston Cup started racing there. The new edge on the race tracks is usually not a good thing for racing. It's a good thing for speed, but it's not a good thing for the show, so that edge had already sort of worn off."
IS LAS VEGAS BECOMING A BETTER TRACK OR GOING THE OTHER WAY?
"I think almost all the race tracks, I can't think of a single race track that would be going the other way. All race tracks actually need some age on the pavement itself to be a great race track. Atlanta was almost a nightmare with new paving and now it's wonderful to race on, but it's got quite a few years on it now and it has become a great race track to race on now."
DOES IT GET FRUSTATING FOR YOU PERSONALLY TO COME SO CLOSE TO A CHAMPIONSHIP?
"No, it doesn't get frustrating."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING IN IROC?
"It's an enormous sense of pride for me. I participated seven years in a row and I finished second three times and won four championships. I think I finishes second to Earnhardt each of those other three years, so I felt like that was a true testament to luck because I certainly couldn't have possibly been that good."
DO YOU FEEL THE YOUNG GUYS HAVE CREATED BETTER COMPETITION FOR THE OLDER GUYS?
"No, that gives you guys something to write about. The age difference between Kurt Busch and Dale Jarrett is something to write about, but it's nothing when we're on the race track. It's not an issue. It's an issue of who has got the best car and who does the best job. That's all it really is. It isn't someone with gray hair against someone with a spiked haircut. It's not about that, but, obviously, there is a certain degree of excitement to see incredibly young, incredibly talented new faces come into the sport. It's a thrill for me. It's exciting for me to see that, but I think what you're getting at I don't see. We as competitors don't see that. The only reason that there's anything being said of it is because there has been such a big deal made out of it by the media."