Martin comments on his ride with JGR at Martinsville

Mark Martin, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, interview subbing for Denny Hamlin: "I will give it my best and I will be engaged 100 percent..."

What is it like to be in the No. 11 Camry? "I've seen that car on the race track, followed it on the race track with Denny (Hamlin) behind the wheel and tried to figure out and mimic how he was doing what he was doing, especially at Richmond (International Raceway) -- here as well -- and Denny is a master at being able to make the rear tires last and get good speed at the same time, so it's a challenge for me.

Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota
Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

It's exciting for me to work with all new people, spotter and all. It has me up on my toes paying attention and trying to get in sync with a whole group of people and new faces, but that's a good thing. That challenge is something that motivates me to make sure I'm engaged 100 percent."

Is NASCAR becoming a young man's game? "I don't know. I have a lot of thoughts about that. One of those things is Denny Hamlin is a young man, but most of the guys that I considered were the young men in the sport are in their 40s now -- I was discussing that with Arlene (wife) the other day.

I'm not sure I have a total perspective on that other than to say that you have to play to your strengths to answer your question real honestly. You have to play -- you have to use your strengths. I have some strengths.

It's not youth and exuberance, although I might have a little bit of that in me somewhere. It is experience and the things that I have had and the things that I've done and also the opportunity to work with so many different people throughout my career, not only in Cup but in the Nationwide Series as well especially.

I worked with a lot of different people. I will give it my best and I will be engaged 100 percent for this weekend and try to do a good job for FedEx and Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota."

Why do you want to start by using Denny Hamlin's setup this weekend? "Well, it's a good place to start. You have to realize that the tire has changed and the Gen-6 rules in the rear of the car are quite different than they were a year ago, so we will -- everyone will probably have to adjust to some of those changes.

It's an excellent place to start for all of us and we will collaborate on what the car feels like and what I think it needs. I have had a long conversation with Denny about what he feels and what he thinks the way he does, runs this race track and I've told him the things, my experiences and what I think and they line up closely.

They are some things that I'm going to be looking for that I haven't as hard in the past that he suggested and we will work together to try to get the best result that we can.

That's what we'll do. We're going to put our best foot forward and work hard and I'm definitely listening and Denny tweeted he looked forward to learning something from me and it's like it may be the other way around here.

He's one of the masters at this race track. We'll work together and try to get the best result we can."

Are drivers more aggressive because of the comfort created by recent safety innovations? "No. I think that young, less-experienced drivers when they get to this level race as hard as they can and make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

That's in general. That's not speaking about any particular situation. I think that would be in general not just to driving race cars though. I think that would be the case in many sports.

You learn from your experiences and a lot of time you learn that you pick your battles -- those early ones might not be as important as some later and the early one cost you a chance to have a finish, you'll remember that, especially after it happens over and over again.

That's just the nature. His point being with the SAFER barriers and this car, you don't get hurt as bad when you hit stuff and that is a valid point. For me, it might someone else, but for me, it doesn't -- it would not change how I would drive a car because I don't really wreck whether it hurts or not.

You usually don't get a checkered flag when you wreck, so I would rather not wreck because I'd rather have a chance to finish, but I think his point was that you can get lulled into a sense of security that you can't get hurt in these cars because they're safer and I think that's what his point was."

Do you remember when a young Denny Hamlin had an incident with you at Martinsville? "You have to learn from your experiences and Denny didn't even realize that what happened here there had been something previous at Las Vegas that got under my skin.

I didn't say anything about it. We had our incident here. He was mad. I went to, you know -- then I explained to him and I heard him give the same explanation about two years later to another young driver coming from a veteran, which is a very young veteran, but another younger driver he gave the same kind of talk to.

It comes in experience. As far as -- if a driver wants to ask questions, it's wide open you can ask those questions. But, learning as you do things and going through it, that's how you really, really learn.

I mean, you don't forget -- you might forget something that somebody told you, but you won't forget especially if you have something unfavorable happen to you a number of times. You tend to remember that. That's just experience.

That's what that is. As far as it being a self-policing sport, I think it always has been to some degree. Guys work their differences out off the race track. Fortunately, back in the day we got to work those things out much more quietly than we do today.

There's a lot of coverage today and there's more fans and it makes for really good TV to have the controversy. It's good for the sport to have rivals and controversy.

That's something that's good for the sport. I don't particularly want to be in one, but I certainly don't mind watching one."

How have your conversations been with Denny Hamlin? "He was very forthcoming with how he approaches practice and how he approaches the race as far as lines he drives and whatnot.

That information is there and it's a two-way street and I will do anything that I can to help this team and represent Denny well as well. I'll do everything that I can. I'll do my very best."

Do you believe Joey Logano has had a spotlight on him since entering the Cup Series? "First of all, I want to make sure that everyone knows that I have not answered a question yet about Joey Logano -- I hope everybody understands that. I've answered questions, but nobody told me that those questions were directed to Joey Logano.

Are we clear on that? Now, your question does have to do with Joey Logano. I think Joey -- he came into the series with a lot of pressure and a lot of expectations with tremendous history.

As a young driver he had been very, very successful. I don't think he's been out there looking for trouble at all. He doesn't appear to be that kind of a guy, but he's racing hard and that's what's expected of him from the people the support him.

He finds himself in a position where the spotlight seems to be shining on him. Ask Darrell Waltrip -- I'm not sure that's a bad thing. It's just where it is today.

Over a period of time I believe that you earn the respect and you earn the reputation that you have. Short term -- sometimes that can get a little off, but over the long haul that will find its water level.

Right now, there may be a little bit -- it's hard to say. I'm not the judge of it. You guys are the ones that are watching that and judging what's going on.

I'm just sitting here. I do know that he's been caught in a lot of dust-ups lately and one of the reasons is because he's racing hard like the rest of us out there."

What is it like working with a team that is familiar with various drivers during the season? "From my standpoint, it has worked well because I've worked with people that embraced it -- Tony Gibson and all the guys on that team -- Ryan Pemberton and all the guys on that team.

Rodney (Childers, 55 crew chief) and all his guys at the 55 -- Rodney gave his guys the opportunity to move to a different car when they found out that I was going to do a limited schedule or a split season.

Everyone at the 55 made the choice -- they wanted to be there. It's worked really, really well. Its fun, it's comfortable -- we've had great results. They were in contention to win with all three drivers last year.

I certainly think that how you approach it and if you approached it with a negative attitude then I don't think it would work at all. I think it's important from that standpoint for everyone to be on board.

Unfortunately, the FedEx team -- they don't have a choice in this. They will stand behind it and this is Denny's (Hamlin) team and they're going to do everything they can to continue to build that team so that when he steps back in they are ready to go race to win. I think that's how they're all going to approach it."

What would your advice be to Joey Logano? "Joey (Logano) hasn't asked me and I don't seek him out like I did when he was a kid. He's a young man now and he hasn't asked me. I don't have any advice for him. If he asks me, I will have.

Things happen and I've got my own deals to deal with. What he's going through is not at the top of my priority list to be worried about to be honest with you."

Is it beneficial to have the respect of your competitors at Martinsville? "First of all, it doesn't hurt to have the respect of your competitors -- they can make your life tough or they can make your life not so tough -- your competitors can. You don't control everything yourself.

The competitors do have some control over how your day goes. I didn't race here last year, but there was two years that I didn't race here -- '07 and '08 and came here in '09 in the 5 car and we ran good.

I had never felt like I ran very good here even though our stats look good until I got in the 5 car. The 5 car seemed to make this place fun. I actually enjoyed racing here in the 5 car so I certainly look forward to this weekend.

The fact that I wasn't here last year makes me appreciate much more being here -- the drive to the race track and everything else. Not being immersed completely in the sport has certainly changed my perspective and I think you guys know that. I appreciate everything that I have and every opportunity that I have more than I ever did before."

Are you surprised to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. leading the point standings? "It's not a surprise to me -- those guys did an awesome job last year. Really were strong and the fact that he had to sit out a couple races or whatever it was -- that only makes you come back even more hungry and more prepared.

They're off to a great start and it's good to see and it's good for our sport to have the most recognized driver up front and leading the points and battling for wins."

Toyota Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Darrell Waltrip , Michael Waltrip , Eric Gilbert , Denny Hamlin , Joey Logano , Mark Martin
Teams Michael Waltrip Racing , Joe Gibbs Racing
Article type Interview
Tags hamlin, logano, martin, nascar-cup, toyota