Loudon II: Martin - Ford Friday interview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is in the Chase for the Nextel Cup for the third straight season. He spoke about his hopes for the next 10 races on Friday morning at New Hampshire International Speedway. MARK MARTIN -- No. 6...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is in the Chase for the Nextel Cup for the third straight season. He spoke about his hopes for the next 10 races on Friday morning at New Hampshire International Speedway.

MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion

HOW WAS THE NEW YORK TRIP? "It was the best trip ever. NASCAR and Nextel officials really had it organized well and timed and spaced well. Of course, it's probably my last trip up there for something like that, so I enjoyed it rather than maybe trying to rush through it so I could get somewhere else. It was a good trip. I enjoyed it."

HOW ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? "I'm fixing to get out there in that Scott's truck and have some fun with that. We have a real good car right now for these flat tracks. We ran fourth up here in the first race and we have some ideas and some things to try and it seems to be a real straightforward weekend for us, so, like I told you, unless I change my mind here in the next few hours or the next day or so, I plan on having fun no matter what. That's the plan anyway."

LAST YEAR ALL FIVE ROUSH TEAMS WERE IN. WHAT'S DIFFERENT THIS YEAR? "Our stuff is not quite as competitive. We're not as strong as we were last year. The 17 is and there are reasons for that, but as a whole, we're not performing quite on the same level against our competition that we were a year ago."

IS THERE ANY ONE AREA YOU GUYS ARE OFF? "Right now we appear to be OK at Richmond."

YOU'VE MADE THE CHASE ALL THREE YEARS. "Yeah, it's pretty incredible. I wanted to make it so bad. I knew a lot longer than the rest of the team, I guess because of my experience, Jack Roush and everybody else thought I was overreacting when I kept telling them that we were gonna mess around and miss the chase and we nearly messed around and missed the chase. We missed opportunities and left a lot of points earlier, which would have come in very handy and I would have got a lot more sleep the last couple of three weeks there had we done that, but here we are now. I really felt like being in New York with those guys that it was really, really an honor and a privilege. It's something that's hard to really imagine that I've been in the 6 car 19 years and that we've been in the top 10 16 times and been in the chase every time. Those are just tremendous young drivers out there that are in that thing that I'm gonna be watching from the couch for many years to come."

YOU'VE TALKED THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS ABOUT WANTING TO GO OUT AT THE TOP OF YOUR GAME. YOU HAVE TO FEEL GOOD ABOUT THAT REGARDLESS OF HOW THESE 10 RACES END UP. "This is close enough for me. I'd like to set it on fire, but I'm not gonna lose my head over it. I've really carried an enormous amount of stress and it really affected my personality through the summer and it's not gonna happen in the last 10."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET NOW? "The stress is all gone. I'm all relaxed and I'll be honest with you, do you remember when I got to Daytona and I got this blank look on my face like, 'I don't know?' That's how I feel right now. As soon as we got in the thing, after Daytona, I was like on fire and everything else, but right now I'm like I don't know. I've been so stressed out that I'm just happy that we're past that and I'm gonna try -- even if we contend for the championship -- I'm gonna try to take it like, 'Hey, if it's meant to be, it's meant to be.' Rather than, 'I've got to make a difference here,' and that's how I felt in making the chase. I felt that I had to make a difference and if I didn't, we were gonna fiddle around and miss it."

WHEN YOU GET CLOSE TO THAT CAR THOUGH YOU CHANGE AND CAN'T HAVE FUN. "Unfortunately that is true. We'll have to wait and see. You come up and poke me in the ribs when you see me frowning over there and remind me. I promise I won't bite your head off."

WHAT MAKES YOU THAT WAY? "That's my personality. I'm incredibly competitive and let's face it, where I am at this stage in my career at 47 years old, doing this for all this time, if it weren't for that I would be riding around in the back. It is what drives me and it's a huge part of my success -- it's the key to my success is the competitive nature and willing to do anything with the laser focus that I have and that's a curse if you want to go have fun. That's part of it. It's been a big part of why I've been successful."

ANY DECISIONS ON NEXT YEAR? "I haven't wasted a breath on it this week -- same as last. We're just going along here. I feel great. We made the chase. I don't need a job. If I needed one, I'd already have something worked out, you can believe that. I'm not the kind of guy that waits. You all know me. I get my business taken care of, so I would have something done, but it is my intention to drive the 6 truck. We just don't have it done yet."

WHEN WILL YOU DECIDE ON NEXT YEAR? "I would imagine if they would present me with a contract I would sign it and that would be it, but they haven't yet. There are some details that still aren't worked out yet on it and, in the meantime, there are some very interesting opportunities."

HAVE YOU BEEN ASSURED YOU'LL GET THE CONTRACT? "I've been assured for over a year that it would all work out and it still will. It just hasn't yet. You'll have to talk to Geoff Smith about it, but I'm not worried about it. I don't expect Geoff to let me down. We have a plan and we've had this plan for over a year now. They didn't present me with a contract a year ago right now because they knew they were gonna talk me into driving the 6 car, I think. And I think they haven't proceeded very quickly on this truck thing this year because they knew that something else might happen, so I would have to say that I know Geoff Smith. I'm not saying that he's manipulative or anything like that, but he's pretty smart."

WILL THE CHASE BE MORE FUN CONSIDERING THIS WON'T BE LIKE A RETIREMENT? "Yeah. The one thing that I have noticed that's different than last year before I committed to the 6 car again was that I absolutely didn't have any thoughts about, 'Oh, what's it gonna be like,' and any reservations about opening the next chapter. I do have some reservations about opening the next chapter now because I don't know what's in it. I really desperately want to love the next chapter and closing this one and moving to the next one has caused me a little bit of anxiety that I didn't experience a year ago. There's been a lot of talk this year about continuing Nextel Cup, either on full-time or a limited basis, so I don't think I've got my mind set completely where it should have been like it was before. I've had a great year. I don't like the idea of getting to the point where I can't do something anymore. I know everyone else doesn't feel that way, but I feel I'm nearing the point where pretty soon I can't do Nextel Cup anymore on the level that I want to. My standards are incredibly high. For a lot of people, they would think that it would be OK if I just let my standards slip a little bit it would be OK and be all right. It's not really all right with me. There is where my conflict is and has been. I've been struggling with that conflict for about three years now."

HAS DOUG OR ROBERT YATES BEEN IN TOUCH? "We haven't spoken. No one that works for me or anyone. There has been no conversation."

THERE'S A LOT OF PRESSURE WITH ALL OF THIS. "Why do you think my face looks so old? I carry this stuff around all the time and the biggest thing is that one of the big motivators for me is fear. I've always been afraid of failing. I failed once. I got fired once. I'm scared of losing and I'm scared of failing, so I work really hard. I work a lot harder at it than most of the guys do. I think more about it than everyone I know, but that's been part of the key to my success."

ARE YOU SAYING YOU'RE NOT GOING TO FEAR MISTAKES? YOU'RE JUST GOING TO GO IN AND RACE HARD? "I doubt that I'll make a mistake if I don't push myself to try to do more than I can. That's the answer to the mistake question. I doubt if I'll make one. I'm certainly likely to make one if I try to do more than what I can, and I've been trying to do that here lately. That can cost you, so I'm gonna try not to feel like I need to do more than I can, and the rest of it, I don't know. I'm just like I was at Daytona. I don't feel anything right now, but I'm afraid that before the weekend is over with it's gonna be set on fire again and I'm gonna do everything I can to drive this car and accept what they give me and try not to push them, and do my job and do the best I can and try to walk away with a smile, and maybe take one extra picture with a fan or sign one extra autograph and enjoy the last 10 races in the 6 car."

WHO DO YOU THINK THE BIGGEST COMPETITION FOR YOU IS IN THE CHASE? "All anyone has to do is put together 10 spectacular races. Everyone in it is capable of that, but right off the top of my head the 17 is really strong -- really strong on pit road and really strong on the race track. Harvick and his team have been real good, but I'm gonna tell you, young Kyle Busch could, if he can put together 10 races like the last two he's had, they could definitely be contender. And, of course, the 48 -- you never know -- the same thing with the 24 and Jeff Gordon. If they could put together 10, they could -- and you can go right down the line. Every single one of them in there, all they have to do is put together 10 special races and they're all capable of that, so I don't know."

WHAT TRACK ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN THE CHASE? "All of them. Atlanta will be fun. It was a lot of fun when we went there earlier this year. I expect Atlanta to be the most fun of all."

-credit: ford racing

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jack Roush , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin