Loudon II: Martin's 500th consecutive start, part II

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, will be making his 500th consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup start in tomorrow's Sylvania 300. Martin held a Q&A session this morning in the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media ...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, will be making his 500th consecutive NASCAR Winston Cup start in tomorrow's Sylvania 300. Martin held a Q&A session this morning in the New Hampshire International Speedway infield media center to discuss the streak and other issues.

MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus:

Part 2 of 2

WHAT IN YOUR MIND IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOW SOME OF THE YOUNG GUYS HANDLE THINGS TODAY VERSUS DALE EARNHARDT?

"Dale Earnhardt handled his off-track business way different. On track, everybody knows that history. But if everybody looks back, Dale handled his off-track business quite a bit differently. I'm not sure Dale was as young as those guys, though. Dale might have been a little bit older when he was in a top Winston Cup ride, I'm not sure. Like I say, these guys on the race track are getting life lessons every single week. Once again, I'm bringing up the point and a fact. I'm neither criticizing or defending, I'm just saying you have to be fair and look at the situation. Some of these situations are the first time these guys have ever faced that particular situation and they're learning how they're gonna deal with those in the future."

WHAT IS THE RIGHT WAY TO HANDLE THESE DIFFERENCES?

"I don't know how to answer that. I don't know what is right. I'm not nearly that smart. There are a lot of emotions involved in this and I can't speak for anyone else, but I know if I showed my tail I would be embarrassed about it afterwards. I can't speak for anyone else, but what that tells me is if I can do my best to not show it until I get my wits about me, then I would be better off. But I can't speak for anyone else. I just know instead of making a huge scene, a small private scene would be much better for me (laughing)."

WHAT IS YOUR OWN VIEW ON WHAT YOU WOULD DO?

"It's hard for me to say about that because, really, I haven't experienced that as much as some of these other guys. I've had some huge disappointments in my career, but I've managed to handle my deal in a less public way and think through what happens a little bit more and that's always been better for me. If I can think through it before I did it, it's always been much better. I do think that would help. I think that helps anybody. If they take the opportunity to think through it without the raging emotions, then they would be better equipped to deal with the situation."

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT 500 STRAIGHT STARTS? WHAT'S THE KEY?

"I ran good enough to keep a job, number one. Number two, I was fortunate enough, I'm not gonna say to not get injured, but at least I was fortunate enough to drive injured and sick and with the death in my family - all these things. Those were all keys. I raced when there was death in the family. I raced when I was sick, and I raced when I was broken up, and I kept a job. Keeping the job is first."

IS THE NUMBER 500 IMPORTANT?

"No, I don't think that's real important. It's certainly not as important as going fast on the race track, to me. It's a big deal, but it's a big deal in a much different way than how many races you won or how many poles you won or anything like that. It's a different kind of accomplishment than a high-performance kind of accomplishment. I'm real grateful to Jack Roush because that streak is solely on Jack Roush's back. It didn't start prior to Jack Roush, it started with Jack and it is an accomplishment in its own right. It's not just something that just everybody does."

DO YOU THINK 500 STARTS WILL BE SEEN LESS AND LESS BECAUSE WITH ALL THE MONEY IN THE SPORT THE YOUNGER GUYS OF TODAY WILL GET OUT EARLIER?

"Yes, I do. I don't think they'll be getting out because there is more money in the sport, I think they'll be burned out. This sport is much more demanding now than it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago. The reason Harry Gant made it to 54 years old was because he got a late start, in my opinion. He didn't start young. He didn't start when he was 18. So I think because of the demand that NASCAR Winston Cup racing puts on the drivers and the crews, that it will all be edging toward younger starts and retirements going into the future - not just dramatic change in 2003 or 2004, obviously. But as we press on into the future, it's definitely gonna be a young man's sport. It's very demanding on the crews as well and I thing the crews are certainly younger than they were 10 years ago on average."

IS THERE A CONCERN THAT SOME TEAMS MIGHT BE GOING TOO FAR AND USING TRACTION CONTROL?

"I have absolutely no concern at all that anyone is using traction control. If they are, I'm real naïve. John Darby has done an incredible job. I knew John was gonna be really, really fair from working in Busch with him. I also knew the teams were gonna take a little bit of time to get used to him, but the good thing was it was gonna be very black and white - it was gonna be very fair, above aboard. You knew what you had and you could take it at face value. John has done a great job. There are way too many rules and I don't know what we do about that. There are way too many rules, way too many. Man, it's unbelievable, but you can't just drop them. You can't just say, 'OK, we're just gonna quit checking 50 things because then things go crazy.' But racing was so much simpler 10 years ago when you didn't have to deal with all that. We got another new rule this week. Now we go through tech with the shocks unhooked, which changes everything again. Now inspection takes even longer. Pretty soon inspection is gonna take as long for here as it does at Daytona or Talladega five or 10 years from now. I don't know what the answer is for all that because I know you can't just start dropping all these rules, but we do have too many and it takes too long to tech the cars. The creativity that was there for the racers 10 years ago is gone. I mean, I used to be able to figure stuff out and just go get the hammer. You could figure something new out and go win four races in a row."

CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE?

"You can't beat anybody on shocks anymore. They take your shocks apart and show 'em to everybody. Now you go though tech with the shocks unhooked. You can't do the things we were doing with shocks - and a bunch of other teams. You can't beat anybody on aerodynamics because every quarter of an inch is checked with a template. You can't figure something special out there over the competition. There never really was anything special in the chassis that you could do or the suspension. We're very confined and now we've got guys that are way smarter than the drivers and really even smarter than the crew chiefs. They're the ones that are pioneering any possible new ideas, instead of the drivers and the crew chiefs being the ones coming up with these new ideas that give you a competitive advantage. I don't see that anymore. I see the engineers bringing the few little tidbits to the table. I see more of that, so it's made the racing pretty frustrating to many crew chiefs and many more drivers."

ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT THE ENGINEERS AND HAVE THEY CHANGED THE WHOLE DYNAMIC OF THE SPORT?

"Yeah and this is important for you guys because you're all writing and conveying this information to our fans. The engineers 10 years ago that were in our sport - and every team didn't have one - but Jack Roush has an engineering background and was always happy to give us access to an engineer. He thought it would and would like to see it and many other teams. For example, Hendrick had a number of engineers over there in the early nineties and it was thought to be kind of funny because they were unable to help the teams at that time. The way we tried to use the engineers in the early nineties, they were unable to help the teams go better. They had these ideas, but none of the ideas never seemed to work. It took a long time to figure out how to integrate engineering with NASCAR racing, I think. But once that started to happen and once there became so many rules that all 43 cars in the garage had the same stuff. Now figuring out how to integrate that engineering degree with aerodynamics, with shock absorbers, with many other aspects of what we do became very useful. Now that every team is using engineers and have been for a few years, they've figured out how to really bring stuff to the table and work with the teams. But initially we were much happier if we could get our engineer to go away. I'm talking about 10 years ago, don't get me wrong, but I didn't see any race team benefiting. They were always more like us, trying to get 'em to go away at the time. But the racing has changed so much and the cars have changed and the rules have changed and they've been around long enough that they've also figured out how to work as a very important part of the team and bring things to the table."

WHAT WILL YOU EMOTIONS BE FOR JACK IF MATT WINS THE CHAMPIONSHIP?

"I'm gonna be happy for Jack. I've known that he was gonna get a Winston Cup championship for quite some time. I had hoped that I'd be able to bring that to him, but I haven't managed to do that. He's a winner and he deserves it. I'm gonna be very happy for him. Jack and I both have a whole lot the same view of a Winston Cup championship right now and that is it's not gonna change Jack Roush's life that much. I think you've seen that from some of his comments and it wouldn't change mine either. So, to me, I value my relationship - what's in between he and I - much more than him having that trophy. I'm happy for him and I want him to get it. I know he's gonna get it and I've known for quite some time that it was gonna come and I'm happy for him for that. He deserves it. It's taken a long time and he's worked really hard. He lives for racing. That's all he thinks about and he's done it for a long, long time and that's the kind of dedication that it takes to get there. Some people have gotten there much quicker than Jack and I'll be glad to see that happen for him. I really will."

Part I

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jack Roush , Mark Martin