FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES CALIFORNIA 500 April 26, 1999 California Speedway Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus, is the defending champion of the California 500...
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES CALIFORNIA 500
April 26, 1999
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline/Cummins Taurus, is the defending champion of the California 500 presented by NAPA which is this week's stop on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. Martin, who will be making his 400th career NASCAR Winston Cup start on Sunday, is currently third in the point standings trailing leader Jeff Burton by 84 points. In nine races so far this season, Martin has seven top-10 finishes, including six top-fives and one victory (Rockingham). Martin spoke about returning to California and his season to date during a special Ford Racing Teleconference.
MARK MARTIN -6- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COMMON TEMPLATES? "My focus right now is on trying to run up front, win races and scoring points. We have to deal with whatever the rules are no matter what. In a way, I'm certainly pleased to see the Monte Carlo delayed a little bit because I felt like it was gonna be better than what they had and what they had was pretty good, so I wasn't looking forward to the new Monte Carlo. But that gives us time to try to sort of get our heads together and get ready for another year."
THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT THIS RACE TRACK YOU AND YOUR TEAM OBVIOUSLY LIKES. YOU WON LAST YEAR AND YOU HAD A GOOD RUN THE FIRST YEAR WHEN YOU FINISHED 10TH. "It was and I can't really exactly put my finger on it. It's a situation that we have a beautiful, nice, big, open speedway -- a lot like the Michigan Speedway -- and it suits my driving style. We seemed to have adapted to it really quickly and I, if I'm not mistaken, I've won both IROC races out there and have done well in the Winston Cup car too. It's just a race track that you can go out there and let it all out."
WHEN YOU FIND A TRACK THAT SUITS YOUR STYLE LIKE THIS ONE DOES IT GIVE YOU A MENTAL EDGE? "I would have to say that I know going to California that we're gonna run good. I know that. If that mentally helps me run good, then it does, but when we go to Michigan or California or Charlotte or Las Vegas -- any race track like that -- there's no question in my mind that we're gonna be very competitive because those are race tracks we do real well on."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT CALIFORNIA BEING YOUR 400TH CAREER START? "Sometime this week that is gonna soak into my head. I didn't even realize it until this morning. I've been too busy to get caught up in all that stuff -- too busy with trying to just fulfill commitments and win races. Sometime this week as the questions keep coming up, that will hit me. Probably when I go to bed one night and I'm not asleep yet, I'll start having thoughts about all that, but, to be honest with you, it hasn't even crossed my mind yet. That's a lot of starts. I've been around for awhile and I'm real proud of the success that I've had and not a bit disappointed with the things that I've yet to accomplish."
NOT BAD FOR A GUY FROM BATESVILLE, ARKANSAS, RIGHT? "That's the way I look at it. Some folks think it's pretty bad that I haven't won a championship yet and I think it's pretty good that I've been a contender so many times."
ARE YOU GUYS COMING OFF THE TOUGHEST STRETCH OF RACES (BRISTOL, MARTINSVILLE AND TALLADEGA) FROM A MENTAL AND PHYSICAL STANDPOINT? "I would have to say that Martinsville and Talladega back-to-back are pretty tough on me because my biggest challenge at Talladega is not being in the wreck, which we managed to do this time. Martinsville, even though we've been very competitive there, has always been quite a challenge for me as far as making a car handle as good as I want and need it to handle."
SO IS CALIFORNIA A PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL LIKE A TIGER BEING LET LOOSE, WHERE YOU CAN RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN? "I will say that I expected to lose points going into Martinsville and Talladega back-to-back, and I especially expected to lose points at Talladega. So I don't know if that's good or bad. Maybe that means when I go to places I should gain points, maybe I won't. I'm hoping that it won't work out that way. I do feel like I've been let out of a cage now. I know that my car is gonna be in worst condition, it will be fairly competitive -- in a worst case scenario -- and if it's as good as it usually is then we should be a contender to win."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET THROUGH TALLADEGA WITHOUT GETTING IN THE WRECK? "It's truly a relief to not only get out of Talladega without getting hurt at all, but with a race car in one piece that runs good means that we get to go into Daytona with the same car we ran last time at Talladega which is a big deal. We know that it runs well. It's the car that won the Bud Shootout and all of that is off our back now. We scored some points, we did well, and some of the competitors that seem to be fortunate to not get caught in that stuff very often, it seems like the bad luck went their way instead of our way this time. So, I'm relieved and I'm ready to go racing -- real racing. I'm ready to go out here and let this Valvoline team do what they do best and that's contend to win each week."
ARE YOU SURPRISED FORD HAS THE TOP THREE DRIVERS IN THE POINT STANDINGS? "No, it doesn't surprise me and it does surprise me. What does that mean? That means Jeff Gordon had trouble. That means Mike Skinner was doing better than all of us and then he had trouble. To me, that doesn't mean that much because leading the points not only means decent performance, but no problems."
WHAT SPECIFICALLY IS IT ABOUT JEFF BURTON THAT MAKES YOU SAY HE'S THE BEST DRIVER IN WINSTON CUP? "His car knowledge makes him the best driver on the circuit. Now that sounds kind of weird, I know, but that means if you took a bucket of parts and threw it out in the garage for all the drivers to put together, he'd put together a winning race car before most. When you can do that, that means you hold your future in your hands. That means your crew chief, your car owner or your sponsor doesn't hold your future in their hands because you hold your own future and Jeff Burton can do it. In any scenario you put that guy in he can emerge a winner and that, to me, is very important in the business because you may not always have everything that you need to get the job done, and you might need to do it yourself or help do part of it yourself."
WHY HAS NASCAR EXPERIENCED SUCH PHENOMENAL GROWTH IN THE LAST DECADE? "You know that's scary and I'm not sure. I know that there are a lot of great things about NASCAR like good, wholesome role models. It's very, very American like they used to say about baseball. You've got normal, everyday people that are real good at driving cars out there driving Chevrolets and Fords and Pontiacs and the same kind of stuff that everybody drives on the highways. There's a lot of identification. The drivers are real people and not made up. The sport has a very good image and sets a good example for parents who want their children be involved in the sport. The races are incredibly exciting. The sponsors have done a great job in promoting the sport and it's been masterminded perfectly by the France family and everyone at NASCAR. I don't know why, it's crazy."
COULD YOU SEE IT GETTING THIS BIG WHEN YOU STARTED? "No way. No way."
WAS THERE ANY DEFINING MOMENT FOR YOU WHEN YOU SAW IT STARTING? "I don't know. I really couldn't answer that specifically. It just continues to surprise me."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JACK ROUSH? "It's been real important. I'm a very, very simple person. I think of things in very simple ways and I try not to get things complicated. We've had lots and lots of good days and we've had a few bad days and bad times where we had to walk away from one another and we've been mad at one another. That's the way things are when you're passionate about something and you really care about what you're doing, but we've had a great 12 years together. Jack and I are closer now than we were three years ago and closer than we were then than we were three years before that. We've grown closer every year that we've been together and I personally look up to him a lot like I would a father and I think that he respects me and cares about me like you would someone that was related to you. We've grown together and we've accomplished a lot of things in our lives and careers together and we're not done yet."
DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE HAD AS MUCH SUCCESS WITHOUT HIM? "I don't know. Jack is a very, very successful person. I could spin that around and if you asked me, 'Do I think that Jack Roush could have had the success that he's had without me?' I'd say, 'Yeah, he probably could have,' because he's very determined. We're very much alike because I'm very determined too. We both had a lot of success before we got together, but our personalities and our racing philosophy and our work ethic are very much alike. It's a very good fit, so I can't really envision what my career would have been like with us not being together. It's been the way it has been and that's been it. There are no scenarios of any other way the way I see it."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SCHEDULE BEING THE WAY IT IS AND WITH NEW TRACKS BEING BUILT? "NASCAR needs to go wherever it feels is best. The popularity and the growth of the sport is enough to break a young man's back and some of us aren't young men. It's quite a commitment to do everything that you need to and be successful in this business, but it's what we've all raced all our lives for, so I don't think there's gonna be any letting up in the future."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO WIN OUT IN CALIFORNIA? IS IT MOVING UP THE LIST AS FAR AS PRESTIGE GOES? "I think that every one of them is. I don't think you can just say one race (stands above another). You have to realize how hard it is to win a race. There's no way that you can go to John Andretti and say, 'Oh, John you won Martinsville, that doesn't count much for nothing. You've gotta win at California to be a big shot.' I mean, they are all huge. They're all incredibly hard to win. I just don't like to fall into that by saying this is the biggest deal that ever happened or after this one there won't ever be another one -- kind of like they try to do about the Daytona 500 or any particular thing. We're coming to California and there are gonna be 50 cars there -- 50 drivers and 50 teams -- and the only race in the whole wide world to them is California until the checkered flag flies. When it's over with there's gonna be a winner and all the rest of them are gonna pack up and focus on the next race."
HAVE YOU NOTICED IF OTHER GUYS PUT MORE PRESTIGE ON CERTAIN RACES? "I think the media has done that much more than the competitors. If the media beats it and beats it, then the drivers are answering the questions and talk about that race being a big one because they're going along with what the media is asking. Winning at California was awesome last year, so was winning at Vegas, so was winning at Texas, but so was winning at Michigan and Charlotte. But one that was just as cool as any of them was winning at Dover, so I'm just not one to put one above the other. I think it's important to win a lot of races and, if you do that, everything will be fine. We're really excited and honored to be racing in the L.A. market area. It's extremely good for people like Valvoline and Cummins and all of our sponsors. It's very good exposure for all the drivers and the team owners, and it's great for NASCAR and the fan base. There are lots of wonderful fans in California and, to me, that's what is important, not saying, 'Well, I'd rather win California than Martinsville or Dover.' To me, that's not important. What is important is it's a place that we're all real excited about going to and racing. It's a market that we, NASCAR, desperately needed and now we have it."