Continued from part 1 MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus "I tell you what, I understand why Jack had such a hard time getting through that. We had a discussion before we came in here today and I told Jack that the best times that we had we ...
Continued from part 1
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
"I tell you what, I understand why Jack had such a hard time getting through that. We had a discussion before we came in here today and I told Jack that the best times that we had we didn't know we were having them at the time. But through those 17 years that we've been together have been the most incredibly years of my life. I feel the same way about Jack that he does me. He corrected me one time when I told him that I looked up to him as a second father. He wanted to make sure that I understand he wasn't old enough to be my dad, but he's wise enough to be. I've always looked to Jack Roush for that kind of advice and leadership. He's an incredible leader and he's made my career.
"Obviously, this is a tough day for us, but, at the same time, I think that there are great times to come. First of all, I'd like to stress that I am not announcing retirement today, but 2005 will be my final year to race for the Nextel Cup. I don't have 2006 plans totally in order yet, but, certainly, I look forward to continuing driving race cars. Hopefully, I'll have a little bit more time on my hands.
"Chasing for the Cup in 2004 has definitely been the most consuming season of my life. Of all the racing I've ever done, I have never been so consumed as 2004. Thank you to Jack Roush for giving me the people and the commitment to make it back in this chase. No one can understand how important it has been for me to be a contender. We have the opportunity in 2004 to go win this championship and, thanks to Jack, he's given me the opportunity to work with Pat Tryson, Wally Brown, Todd Zeigler and all the guys that work on the Viagra car this year. It's the greatest team that anybody could ask for, so that's what's really been on our minds this year.
"I want to thank my family for the commitment that they have made through the years for me to follow my dream. I know that 2005 is gonna be the toughest year of my career for a lot of reasons. Number one, it's because it's gonna require a larger commitment than 2004 and that's the scary thing, but that's what we're gonna do. The commitment is there from Pat Tryson, from Viagra, from Pennzoil, Kraft and Maxwell House brand, from Ford Motor Company, Gatorade. Pat Tryson, Wally, Todd and all the guys on the team have committed to stay here, stay put and race for that championship again and put forth a great fight for it like we have this year. That's really important to me and it really makes me proud that the people are there to support that.
"Most years, when I've had a great season, at the end of that year I had people leave my race team, unfortunately. It's just almost been that way and you go into the next season with having to start over with some people and get it all back together. I don't think we're gonna have to do that this year, so 2005 looks the best ever for me and for my team. I'm really honored and excited that we have that kind of commitment.
"We're gonna call the 2005 year, 'My Salute to You Tour,' and what that means is that can go a million different ways. Obviously, I'd like to start right here with a salute and respect to Jack Roush for making my career what it is today. To NASCAR, to Bill France, to Brian France, who, I think, is gonna propel NASCAR into the 21st century in a big way with more brilliant ideas like the chase for the Nextel Cup. To great people that I've had the opportunity to work with and see here in this room - like Pat Tryson, Ben Leslie, Jimmy Fennig, Robin Pemberton, Steve Hmiel and all the people that worked on the 6 car all through the years. We had some great times. Like I said, we didn't know we were having them at the time, but when you look back on them, the best times in our career were the years that we were building the 6 car and doing things that we always wanted to do and dreamed of doing and finally had the opportunity to go do.
"The salute also means to the media, who have helped me build this career and have such a great time, along with our sponsors that have supported us all through the years. And, of course, especially the race fans. As everyone knows, respect is number one in my book. That is the biggest thing there is in my life. I believe that respect is number one and that's something I commit myself to do for 2005 is to make sure that everyone in the media gets what they need from me and the race fans feel just a little piece of that respect that they've given me. I plan to give that back if any way possible.
"We have a lot of really neat, really exciting events planned and you guys can find out about some of those later. Not everything is etched in stone, but I'm pretty excited about those kind of things. Two thousand five, for me, is about commitment - to racing for a championship one last time in Nextel Cup. It's about getting out and being with the fans, signing autographs, taking care of the media and paying respect to the people who have helped me make this such a great 20 years of my life. I look forward to it.
"Beyond that, in 2006 I'll still be in the driver's seat I just don't know exactly what seat that will be just yet. We don't know what we're gonna be doing exactly yet. We are definitely looking at and I'm actually even looking at the Craftsman Truck Series. That looks kind of interesting. I'm too young to retire, but I've had enough of this full schedule and this battle. It's been really tough on me and it's been tough on my family and I look forward to opening the next chapter."
MIKE HELTON, President of NASCAR - "I'm here for two reasons. One, professionally on behalf of NASCAR to thank Mark and Arlene for their commitment to this sport for so long. I don't know that the true value of a Mark Martin will ever be realized and that's unfortunate because the state of NASCAR today is because of the character that Mark Martin partakes. That's the most significant thing that makes our sport click and makes the opportunities exist that exist in NASCAR are the individuals that make it up and Mark Martin is certainly at the head of the list of the loyalty and the respect and the commitment to be competitive that exists out there and that has made NASCAR function at the level that it does, and have the opportunities that it does today for everybody.
"So, on behalf of everybody at NASCAR, the France family, every employee, every official, every future driver who today may be somewhere saying, 'Man, I want to be like Mark Martin,' thank you for that and thank you for choosing NASCAR as your career.
"Secondly, it's a bit personal because as the guy that sits here and watching all these announcements about changes in careers take place from people such as Rusty and Terry and now Mark, and having been around for their entire careers, you kind of have to take a moment and take stock in the fact that the calendar catches up with all of us. That's good and bad. It's good because, certainly, in the case of Mark, he's leaving a heritage that will exist forever in our sport and that's a great and positive and wonderful thing. The tough part is that he'll be missed, certainly, walking around the garage area with the uniform on or in the driver's meeting or at the level of chasing the Nextel Cup. But we're very fortunate that he's gonna be around and he and Arlene and Matt are part of the Daytona community, so we still have that to lean on.
"When you think about Mark, and the best way I can explain it to someone that doesn't know him like many of us have had the chance to get to know him, there's an old black and white movie called, 'It's a Wonderful Life,' where Jimmy Stewart plays the role of George Bailey. George Bailey is this guy who has kept his nose to the grindstone for all the right reasons and he has an opportunity at the end of his rope to see what his world would be like had he not existed and it's amazing how many people that he has touched and their life is better because of his existence.
"That's the best way I can think of to explain Mark. It's not big. It's not pomp and circumstance, but it's solid and right there at the top. It's such that there are so many of us whose lives have been touched by Mark Martin's involvement in NASCAR that his true value to this sport and to each one of us will never feel realized. So Mark, good luck with the rest of your decisions down the road. Maybe one of these days I'll have a weekend and we can go to dinner."
MARK MARTIN: "I'd like to say one more thing that I'd forgotten. One of the reasons for my stepping out of the Cup Series at this time is because I was never was really convinced, deep down inside, that I was all that good. I think I've fooled a lot of people for a long, long time, and I don't want to take a chance on getting caught up in something where everybody figures out that I was a sham and I really wasn't as good as the results I got.
"I know you guys think that's funny, but I'm serious. Respect is very important to me and I want to step out while I'm at the top of my game. Two thousand four has been a season where I was at the top of my game and 2005, man, if there's any way possible Pat Tryson and Jack Roush will make sure that I can do the same and have another year just as great as this year. I wanted to go out that way, instead of on the decline."
QUESTON & ANSWER SESSION
DO YOU THINK THIS WILL BE THE LAST GENERATION OF DRIVERS WHO STAY AROUND THIS LONG?
MARK MARTIN: "I definitely think the next number will be like 40, instead of 45 to 50. And then I think the next wave will be more like 35. Yes, I agree with you. It's not gonna change all at once, but the way that racing is today with how technical it is, youth and everything that goes along with that is very important. Whereas, when I came into this thing I had youth and I didn't have experience and what was really important was experience. These teams are looking for those guys 35 to 45 years old that have been there and done that and seen that and to give, really, our own version of the technical assistance that now our engineers are able to do. So, yes, I see that age getting younger and younger as we go forward in the future."
WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE 6 CAR IN 2006?
JACK ROUSH: "That's an evolving process. Mike and I have talked about this, I'm committed and I need to run five teams to make my program work now and having a full sponsor to run the 6 car a full schedule in 2006 is important to me. It's part of our model. We don't have the plans formalized for that yet, but that's certainly our objective."
WHAT IS THE MEANING OF 'SALUTE TO YOU?'
MARK MARTIN: "That salute goes everywhere. It goes everywhere. It is definitely to the fans for being there and supporting me all through the years and helping me make this career. It's to the media as well for helping build this whole career. It's to the competitors and all the great times that we had and some of the not-so-good times as well. It's to the people that I've worked with - the sponsors - it fits me. I think this fits very well with me. It fits my way of showing respect and honoring the people who have helped me make this career."
DO YOU THINK THE SPORT WILL HAVE A MAJOR VOID WITH GUYS LIKE YOU AND TERRY AND RUSTY GONE? HOW WILL THE SPORT REPLACE GUYS LIKE YOU?
"Obviously, it is a sad time, but it's only a small sadness. This great sport is in perfect health with the most exciting young drivers ever in history coming in right now. There is so much going on, so it will heal. I remember when I was first trying to get in and we had Benny Parsons and Buddy Baker and Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty - there was no room for me. They didn't need me down here in 1982. When that guard started to change it was an exciting time for some of us younger guys. It was a sad time for some of the fans and some of the older guys. It's funny that it's sort of happening in a wave. I guess it's coincidence, but maybe that happened in a wave as well and maybe this is just the next time that it's going through the cycle. Certainly NASCAR is in great health. I'm a tremendous fan. I'm a big fan. I'm excited about what's coming up and about the future of racing. I have been a big fan of these young drivers. Before you guys made a big deal out of it, I was standing around talking about it and I was accused that there was something wrong with me because I was so excited about the young talent coming up. It's gonna be fun. I look forward to seeing what happens in the next 20 years."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE GRIND OF THE SCHEDULE NOW COMPARED TO WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED?
"For example, 2004 has been a grind for me. One is, it's more difficult to compete on the same level that we did before because other people are working harder at it, too. In other words, there is more testing, there is more hard work, there is a lot of media now than there used to be. The demands on your time are greater now than I think they ever used to be and one other thing that makes it so tough is the pressure is much higher. Two thousand four, for me, has been, by far, the most pressure of any year of my career because it is such a competitive sport right now and in order to keep this thing rolling, you have to perform. If you don't have a hot rod on Sunday for say three or four months, it gets tougher to put things together. That performance is the glue that keeps a championship team together. Performance is the glue that keeps the sponsor coming back, keeps the people working on the cars wanting to work at night, come in early, stay late, go on the road, leave their families at home - all the sacrifices. Performance is the glue. Without that performance I know where we're headed, so there's been a lot of pressure for a lot of different reasons. I've known for a long time that this was coming myself. I think the biggest thing in my career right now is that I don't want to go out on the decline. I want to be right up there. Gil de Ferran brought a tear to my eye. He went his final race and sat on the pole, won the race, and he won the Indy 500 and finished second in the points. Now my deal could never be that dramatic because I'm not retiring at the end of 2005, but when I step back from Nextel Cup, I want to leave at the top of my game."