You could say that Mark Martin has a love-hate relationship with Martinsville. Make that a hate-hate relationship. Despite his success at the Virginia half-mile, Martin despises racing there. "I don't think that it's any secret that ...
You could say that Mark Martin has a love-hate relationship with Martinsville.
Make that a hate-hate relationship. Despite his success at the Virginia half-mile, Martin despises racing there.
"I don't think that it's any secret that Martinsville is not my favorite track," Martin said before last week's race. "In fact, it's a track that I've always hated with a passion. Martinsville has always been a real challenge for me, because in the end, it just doesn't fit with my driving style. But all that really doesn't matter, as it's the next track on the schedule and the most important one that we go to this week, so it's up to us to be on our A-Game."
Martin did bring his A-Game last week. After struggling in qualifying, he got tangled up in an early race incident, but battled back for a 13th place finish that vaulted him to second in the point standings behind Jimmie Johnson.
"(Crew chief) Pat (Tryson) and the team continue to do a great job with the cars and I'm really impressed how nobody gave up last Sunday and we were able to get a solid finish out of what could have been a rough day," said Martin, who is in his final season of Nextel Cup racing. "We've survived the short tracks and now we get a chance to go back to an intermediate track and hopefully do what we do best."
This week, the series moves to Fort Worth, Texas and a track that Martin is much more comfortable with. He won the second Cup race at the 1.5 mile speedway and admits that he is much happier about going to Fort Worth.
"I am excited about going to Texas anytime," said Martin, who finished second behind Roush Racing teammate Carl Edwards at the Texas race last November. "Texas is a great track. It's the type of place that suits my driving style. I've always done pretty well on the 1.5 mile tracks and Texas has been pretty good for us in that mix."
Martin hopes to pick up his first win of the season in Sunday's Samsung 500 (1:30 p.m. Eastern on FOX).
"Last fall we competed for the win late in the race and we are really looking forward to going back there and seeing what we can do this weekend."
Martin is also making his season debut in the Busch Series this week in Texas. He is the career wins leader in that series and won three of the first four Busch Series races at Texas Motor Speedway.
In fact, the entire Roush team has been dominant at Texas since the speedway opened in 1997. In addition to Martin's Cup win and three Busch wins, Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth (Cup and Busch) and Jeff Burton have all visited victory lane in Roush cars. Biffle also won in the Truck series race in 2000.
"Mark Martin certainly sets the standard," said team owner Jack Roush. "He's really good on mile-and-a-half race tracks. And of course Jeff Burton was good here. He won in the 99 car the first time in the inaugural event."
"It's pretty phenomenal," Martin said in November. "The race track has changed a lot and the cars have changed a lot and it doesn't even seem like the same race. When did we win here, '98? It doesn't even seem like the same race, it doesn't seem like the same race track, we certainly don't run the same setups by any means, but success is there."
Martin finished second at the 1.5 mile Atlanta Motor Speedway three weeks ago. It was his first top-five finish of the season and he expects to use that momentum to run up front again this week.
"We are very excited about going back to a bigger track and hopefully we'll be able to take up where we left off at Atlanta," said Tryson, who has been Martin's crew chief since 2003. "We are running the same car that we used to finish second at Atlanta, so if we can just tweak that and put together a solid effort on pit road, then we should really be in good shape this weekend at Texas, where I know Mark really loves the racing."