Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, announced this afternoon that the 2005 season will mark the final time he will race for the Nextel Cup. Car owner Jack Roush, NASCAR President Mike Helton and Martin all participated in a press ...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, announced this afternoon that the 2005 season will mark the final time he will race for the Nextel Cup. Car owner Jack Roush, NASCAR President Mike Helton and Martin all participated in a press conference prior to Friday afternoon's practice session.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
"The journey which brings me here before you started when I stepped away from my industry job at Chrysler in 1972. I was 30 years old at the time and I started going to my race shop everyday. I progressed through drag racing and road racing for a decade and a half. I climbed the ladder and learned about hardware and politics and built a reputation for being a winner and felt the capabilities to do more complex things.
"As early as 1975, I established a goal of entering NASCAR's premier series, which, at that time, was the Winston Cup Series. I talked to my friends the Wood Brothers and Bud Moore and other which whom I had contact, and figured out what was required. By 1987 we had the resources ready.
"I talked to three drivers initially. They were young by the standards of the day, but not by today's standards. They were mostly interested in money that they'd be paid and the number of appearances that they would be required to give. None of them talked to me about how many tires I'd buy. Who would work on the car and how many times they could go test.
"I talked to Banjo Matthews that I knew of by reputation, Gary Nelson, Lee Morse of Ford Motor Company was a friend. I really wanted Bobby Allison to drive my car. Bobby was settled into the Stavola Brothers and he had no interest in taking a chance on a Yankee coming out of the north to complicate his final years in a Cup car. But he pointed me in the direction of Mark. He said, 'Mark Martin is the guy.' He said he was down there. He tried. He wasn't ready when he came down in the early eighties and he said, 'Mark is the guy.'
"I'd had contact with Mark through Ford's SVO operation. Mark was getting some support from Ford for a Busch Grand National car he was running for another owner and eventually I called Mark. We sat down and talked. Mark's questions to me were, 'Who will work on the car? How much testing can I do? And is there a budget or a limitation on tires and things the car is gonna need?'
"And my answers were, 'We'll get the best people we can to work on the car. I'm not gonna bring other Yankees with me, I'll be the only one. The testing that we'll do will be as much as NASCAR will allow as soon as we're ready for it.' In year three, we tested, the first time Mark finished we tested before every race track we went to the first time we went to that race track that year - that would have been 1990. From that day to this there has been no budget on tires and we have been counting tires.
"By the fall of '87 then, we decided to locate. We picked Steve Hmiel to be our general manager and Robin Pemberton to be the crew chief. Their roles were mixed. Robin helped Steve with his general managing and Steve helped Robin with his crew chiefing and I helped both of them a lot more than I needed to or than was wise for any of us at the time.
"We started with the 1988 Daytona 500. NASCAR gave me, and I'm not saying this because Mike Helton is sitting here -- he's heard it before - gave me an entry into the 1988 Daytona 500. That was luck. For somebody that's on the outside, that's in the hinterlands, that's working with their race cars and putting their business together and wants to go to the top to compete in the top series, the fact that NASCAR has a policy that they'll give an owner - somebody that's not there - an entry and a chance to come and enter one of their races and share the total amount of energy that's associated with their programs is an awesome deal. It's part of America and it's one of the reasons I'm proud to be American.
"The early success was encumbered by the owner's lack of experience and his ineptitude. That, of course, would be me. The fact that my road racing and drag race engine technologies were inadequate to the rigors of Winston Cup competition was a huge disappointment and a surprise. I was sure I could do it like most everybody else that would come down from the north.
"The first year was in 1988 and we had numerous poles. I learned that loose is fast. Guess what? Mark Martin is Doctor Death of loose race cars. Anybody that's watched him for any period of time. Any driver that's run behind him when he's tripped the light fantastic understand what I'm talking about.
"We missed our first victory opportunity at Bristol in the spring. Mark was running second to Bill Elliott and something happened on the race track in advance of our last scheduled pit stop. Steve Hmiel I think was helping Robin that day and Steve says, 'Hit pit road, Mark.' Robin shook his head and, guess what? The owner said, 'Why?' That why caused confusion. Mark drove by the pit road. The caution came out before the pit road was closed and Bill Elliott hit pit road. Mark went down on the next lap with a faster race car following to the checkered flag.
"We missed a second victory opportunity at Darlington that year due to a scoring error beyond our control (laughter). In different circles we could talk about that, but that was probably the best car we had all year and we lost a lap through a scoring error late in the race, but that's another story for another time.
"In the first year and the years that followed, Mark put Roush Racing on the map - first in the Cup Series and later in the Busch Grand National Series. Those stats are a matter of record and I won't bother to go through them now because of my budget on time.
"As if NASCAR's Winston Cup schedule hasn't been enough, Mark has additionally led different teams of multiple Roush drivers to five of Roush Racing's Rolex 24 Hour GTO and GTS class victories throughout the eighties and the nineties. We couldn't wait for the rain tires to come. The first time Mark got on rain tires at Daytona in the dark with one of these 6-litre, 600-horsepower endurance cars, Mark said, 'This is fun. I can't wait until we get rain tires over in the Cup Series,' which, it looked like for awhile they were gonna do that, but it never worked out.
"Mark and I struggled often and mightily in the early days, but Mark always came to my side whenever the team's long-term interests were threatened or when my own often shaky positions on matters between us were unwavering. Over the 17 years we've been together, including the 2004 season we're about to complete, we've entered 659 NASCAR events together. Mark has done his part with 539 consecutive Cup Series starts and, would you believe it, he never got too hot, too sick, too tired, or any other excuse he could have to get out of his race car. He's hung in. I, on the other hand, let Mark down by taking a four-race hiatus in 2002.
"As a team we've logged more than 224,000 miles, often against the fiercest competition you could imagine. Additionally, we've consumed at least 15,800 Goodyear tires, but who's counting? Five 50-foot transport haulers, five corporate airplanes, and more rental cars than I care to remember or count, and Robin and Steve are responsible for some of those.
"Through it all Mark has been true to himself, true to his passion for perfection in himself, and true to his relentless competition with those seeking to occupy his space. Reasonably enough, he shares these qualities with his father, his grandfather and his great-grandfather - all of whom I've had one form of discourse or another at times of their concern down through the years. They've been on me often.
"My association with Mark has been made up of keeping the faith in one another and carrying on the good fight against all who would challenge us. My enduring relationship with Mark has been the proudest accomplishment of my business life. Perhaps most importantly, Mark has been the second brother I never had, the best friend and the cornerstone of the effort to which I pursued my own competitive ambitions.
"It's with a heavy heart and great sadness that I must share with you the news that 2005 will be Mark's last year competing for NASCAR's elusive Cup at the wheel of Roush Racing's number six Viagra Ford Taurus."
Continued in part 2