Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, tested here at Kansas Speedway a few weeks ago with some of his fellow Roush Racing teammates. Martin, who comes into this weekend's race ranked 12th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Pfizer Taurus, tested here at Kansas Speedway a few weeks ago with some of his fellow Roush Racing teammates. Martin, who comes into this weekend's race ranked 12th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings, spoke about his team's problems this year and his hopes for Sunday.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Pfizer Taurus
WITH NINE RACES LEFT IN THE SEASON IS THE GOAL TO TRY AND FIND SOMETHING THAT WILL CLICK FOR 2002? "Really, that's what we do all the time. We've been trying to build on something all year long, so you could say you're trying to use these last nine races to try to build on next year, but we tried to use the first nine races to build on the second half of this season. The only thing about it is we don't have a huge amount to protect, so therefore we're able to feel a little freer in choices that we make because we're really not protecting a top-five point finish or something like that. We have all been struggling pretty hard to build on the future through this season and we thought all through the first half that we were getting closer and getting on the verge, but we haven't had a breakthrough yet. We hope to think that we'll have a breakthrough in these last nine races because if we don't, I don't know how we're gonna expect to go through the winter and emerge next season with something that is gonna be a contender every week. The off time would be okay, but if we don't know what to exactly focus on, then I don't know how we're gonna wind up emerging back in the kind of shape that we want to, so that's my view on it. Yeah, that's building for next year. Of course, that's what you're supposed to say because we've been building on the future along the way. We're in a hole right now as a group, but you can't work harder to dig out. You just hope to work smarter." IS THIS AS BEFUDDLED AS YOU'VE EVER BEEN? "It is. We've been off before. We've been in a down spell before, but I have known what the problem was in every one of those -- I thought I knew. Given the right opportunities, we dug back out rather quickly. If there were no other Fords running well, I would say we absolutely have a front downforce problem, which we do, but there are some other Ford teams that are being really successful in spite of a front downforce problem. So, it's hard to blame that. I know that it would really help my car a lot. My cars won't turn. They haven't turned for a year and the only thing you can do is make the back end slide and that's hard to win with. When the front won't turn and the back end slides, I don't think you're gonna win any races like that. My team and I can't fix that. We might have some major realization this week, but we didn't have one at Dover. I don't know where it's at. We look around and there aren't many secrets in Winston Cup racing. For a year I've been looking for the answer around the garage, and with my cars, and haven't been able to find it. For me, it makes me feel bad because it makes me feel like there are people in this sport that are just a whole lot smarter than me. I've always felt like I had the answer before, but this is one where we've been to the race track testing. We start at nine o'clock in the morning and we never stop until five o'clock. We go all day and work like dogs and at the end of the day we're still where we were. We made no progress. It isn't about testing. It's not about springs and shocks and bars and stuff like that because we've had everything known to man in the cars. I don't know what it is, but that just doesn't seem to be where it's at because my problem is always the same -- the front end won't turn."
YOU AND JEFF ARE USED TO BEING IN THE TOP FIVE IN POINTS AND THAT'S NOT THE CASE THIS YEAR, BUT WITH THE PROBLEMS YOU HAVE HAD YOU'RE STILL JUST OUTSIDE THE TOP 10. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU CAN BUILD ON? "That's disgusting when you consider the caliber of teams the 99 and the 6 are. I don't see that as anything positive. We still run on a given day, on average circumstances, we still run eighth to 15th unless we hit a spectacular day. And then if we have a bad day, it moves you back to around 20th. That's not what we're used to doing, so I'm not encouraged by where we're at in points or where Jeff is at in points. That's an incredibly good race team with a talented driver, crew chief and people on board and the same goes for the 6 car. So, it's a tough situation because we have four race teams and all of them are real good and full of talent, but they're all running about the same."
SINCE YOU TESTED A KANSAS A FEW WEEKS AGO, DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY ENCOURAGEMENT THAT THIS WEEKEND MIGHT BE BETTER? "Oh no, absolutely not. We tested our race setup and I felt it was fairly competitive and reasonable. I hope we can have one of our better race performances, but I certainly don't expect to be a contender with the kind of performance that we had in the test. I am concerned about qualifying because we did a little bit of qualifying during the test and it was definitely off. As far as the race setup, I felt good about the test. I thought we learned something there that was gonna cure our problems, but I tried it at Darlington and it was terrible and I tried it at Richmond and it was terrible. So, obviously, what we found only works at Kansas. I was real disappointed after that because we hit on something at Kansas that I really thought was the answer and was gonna work for us everywhere. It felt good there, but it certainly isn't working at the other tracks."