Mark Martin's Mid-Season Q&A

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Ford Taurus, is seventh in the Winston Cup standings entering Saturday night's (July 1) Pepsi 400 at Daytona, the traditional mid-season point on the NASCAR schedule. Martin finished third last...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Ford Taurus, is seventh in the Winston Cup standings entering Saturday night's (July 1) Pepsi 400 at Daytona, the traditional mid-season point on the NASCAR schedule. Martin finished third last Sunday at Sears Point and earned his 32d career victory earlier this year at Martinsville, tying him with the legendary Fireball Roberts on the all-time list of Winston Cup race winners.

Q. Are you surprised there have been 12 different winning drivers in 16 races so far this season? A. When you've been around racing as long as I have, you see it run in cycles. There could easily have been just two winners in the first nine races. It came at a good time. It's made great hype for the fans and great stuff to write about for the writers. We've seen this before and we'll see it again. We'll see dominance by particular teams again someday.

Q. You've been racing the full Winston Cup schedule since 1988. How important is your experience in competing for the championship? A. Experience has a role. You make decisions based on the mistakes you've made in the past and the successes you've had in the past. The most important thing is the experience we've had weighs on every judgment we make.

Q. Can a driver have "bad" tracks and still win the Winston Cup? A. To have a racetrack where you don't run good is not good. People always tell me I run good at Martinsville, but I disagree. We have lots of top-five finishes there (10) and a couple of wins there (2), but it's still one of my weak suits. The broader you can make your strong suit, the better off you'll be.

Q. How important is it for a driver to take a leading role in keeping his team "up" during the long Winston Cup season? A. I think the whole Valvoline team looks toward me for emotional leadership. You can make a difference in the way your guys feel. They're burned out and they're tired and they have to re-energize every week. Attitude makes a big difference in everybody. I try to set a good example, but, honestly, (crew chief) Jimmy Fennig is the true leader of these guys. He's really the hero when it comes to leadership and keeping a good even-keel.

Q. There was some speculation at the start of this year that, once your back had healed from surgery, you'd realize that problem had affected you in the car the past few seasons. True? A. That's not important. I spend very little time on things that aren't important. What is important is to get the job done now. I am doing a better job of working with my team than I did before. And I am smiling more than I did before. I'm not driving better. I might be driving better cars, possibly, but I don't think I'm driving better.

Q. How do you feel about your chances for success the rest of this season? A. The Valvoline team is a great race team. If things go bad for us that we can't control, then we couldn't control 'em, and if they go good for us, then we should be a contender.

BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF AMERICA UPDATE: Mark Martin's on-track performance in the Valvoline Ford, combined with contributions from Valvoline and NASCAR fans, has brought the current total raised for Big Brothers Big Sisters since 1999 to $488,275. Valvoline is donating $5,000 for every Winston Cup race Martin wins, $2,500 for each pole, $1,000 for a top-five finish, and $20 per lap Martin leads in this "Caring Hands" program.

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Mark Martin