Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, were part of many drivers taking part in testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. Both drivers participated in a Q&A session...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, were part of many drivers taking part in testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. Both drivers participated in a Q&A session during the lunch hour Monday afternoon.
MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
HOW HAS YOUR TEST BEEN SO FAR?
"My cars were tight. The tires are limited and they're wearing too fast, so we're not gonna be allowed enough tires to do as thorough a test as we would like to, so those are the two things. We're having to conserve our laps and conserve our tires. We only get 12 sets and we'd probably like to do more like 16 or 18 sets with the way they're wearing. You wouldn't need that many, but we're only getting about 10 laps. It'll get better, but right now we're only getting about 10 laps -- 10 or 12 really -- out of the right sides and then after that you're taking a risk."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON JUAN MONTOYA COMING TO RACE NASCAR NEXT YEAR?
"He's a world-class driver. From F-1 to come to NASCAR is a real compliment to all of us, everyone in NASCAR and where they have come and certainly have arrived. I think he should be great for everyone. It's really neat."
DID YOU EVER THINK YOU'D SEE SOMEONE FROM FORMULA ONE COME TO NASCAR?
"I don't know. Times were different. We did have Mario (Andretti) run some races and some things like that. To come full time, maybe not. Maybe it wasn't strong enough and powerful enough and lucrative enough to draw a guy like Mario full time, but it definitely drew even back then. This is a major thing. It's quite an accomplishment for Chip Ganassi and I think it's really cool. He's at the age where he can come and do this. It's not getting late in his career like some other open wheel drivers that probably would like to make this switch now. It's getting more late in their careers, so it's good timing. I think I'm gonna watch with great enthusiasm from the couch with the remote control."
DANICA PATRICK MIGHT BE EXPLORING OPPORTUNITIES. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
"Wow, that would be another huge one for sure. I think it would be great and absolutely fantastic. She is definitely a major, major, major draw. It would be fantastic to see her getting involved at this stage of her career, which is in the early stages. It would give her enough time to really adapt to the cars and make a go of it."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO NOT BE VIEWED AS WEAK ON THE TRACK AND ARE WE MORE LIKELY TO SEE CONFLICT AT THE END OF RACES LIKE YESTERDAY?
"I think that's looking awfully deep to try and pick that. I don't know anyone that I currently race with that is weak, and I'm talking about if we want to reach on back into the guys that run from 30th to 40th on a weekly basis, I still can't think of a guy that's weak -- that if you mistreat him or push their buttons that you won't have your hands full. I don't see that part of it. As far as aggressiveness goes, it's been escalating to some degree for several years now, but you don't see as much of that from the veterans as you do the newer guys that are new to it. So if you're referring to yesterday, yesterday was more of an abnormal situation. I don't believe that Jeff intended for Matt to spin out, although I am pretty sure he knew he was gonna hit him before he did."
IS IT A CONCERN TO SEE THAT ON A MILE-AND-A-HALF OPPOSED TO A SHORT TRACK?
"All I can tell you is that we race out there under more difficult conditions than I'm able to describe to you. It's slippery, it's competitive and you're trying to do more with your equipment than your equipment will give you. I think that what happened yesterday was a slip. It was a slip that, like I said, I'm sure that Jeff didn't intend for Matt to spin out and that's as far as I want to go on it. I don't think that it's commonplace for people to spin one another out on a mile-and-a-half race track, but it has happened hasn't it. I think at Chicago a couple years ago Kasey (Kahne) got spun out at the end of the front straightaway, so it does happen. I put that in the category of a slip."
WHAT TRANSLATES FROM POCONO TO INDY AND HOW MUCH DOES POCONO CHANGE BETWEEN RACES?
"For me, there are a lot of similarities because the corners are fairly flat and it's big. They're both big race tracks, but as of late it has gotten to be more and more different because Pocono is so bumpy and Indy is not that the bumps really create more of a challenge at least for us at Pocono, so it makes them quite different in that respect."
YOU SPENT SOME TIME LIVING IN INDIANA. WHAT DOES THIS PLACE MEAN TO YOU WHEN YOU STRAP IN FOR THE BRICKYARD?
"I spent '79, '80 and '81 up in North Liberty, which is, I don't know, 100 miles north of here or something. I traveled a lot of trips down 31 or whatever that highway is through here, to go racing. But to be real honest with you, I was always focused on stock cars and growing up in Arkansas I always identified the biggest race in the world as being the Indy 500, but I never associated what I did with the Indy 500. It wasn't something that I saw stars in my eyes. I dreamed that I would drive NASCAR, but it never occurred to me that I would ever be racing here. It just never really crossed my mind."
THE STATURE OF THIS RACE HAS GROWN. IS IT AS BIG OR BIGGER THAN THE DAYTONA 500?
"For me, it's not gonna be a major feather in my cap that I competed at Indianapolis, but for the guys who win this race, it is. I'm still not sure that it's acknowledged as much as the Indy 500 because of the history and everything, but it certainly is a big, important race. I always say the size of the trophy and the size of the check usually pretty much indicate whether or not the race is a big deal and they're pretty big here for this one. Me, I like to simplify things."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THE OFF WEEKEND AT THE END OF JULY?
"I'm ready for that off weekend. I'm gonna take my partner in our Ford store at Arkansas and Larry Shaw, who helped get me started in racing back in 1974, and their families and my family. We're all gonna pile in my airplane and I'm gonna leave the pilot home and we're going out to Vegas. I don't gamble and I don't drink, so it's an odd place to go but I love it there and so does Matt, my son. We just tear those arcades up, so we're gonna go out there and play some video games and have some fun and eat some good food. I'm so excited. I'm really excited and as excited about that as I have been anything outside of racing in quite some time. Matt's excited about going as well."
LOUDON HAS BEEN A KEY TO THE CHASE AND WINNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO WIN THIS RACE OR GET A GOOD FINISH?
"For us it's huge. We have had three races in a row that have just been incredibly disappointing to us. We were in championship form the first 10 races of the year and it is important for us to get back on that or else. It's real important. We expect to run well. It's not my strongest race track, but we think it will be one of our strongest race tracks. We really feel good about our car and what we're gonna do up there."
IS THERE A CERTAIN RACE YOU'D LIKE TO WIN THIS YEAR OR ANYTHING YOU'D LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH BEFORE YOUR CAREER ENDS?
"I haven't made the final determination on what the 2007 race schedule is gonna look like for me. Roush Racing hasn't presented me with the truck contract yet, although if they would have, I would have signed it and that would be done, but I know what they're doing. So I would consider doing a limited Cup schedule if it was with the right team, and if I did so the Brickyard would be on that. The Daytona 500 would be on that. Races like Michigan and Dover and some of those races that might be in conjunction with the truck races, but that's why last year I said that I learned never to say never. I'm not saying that this is my last year on Cup. I'm not saying anything if you get my drift. Right now I'm focused on trying to make the chase, so that if we do that, maybe we can have another chance to contend for a championship and somewhere along that line things will really fall into place. But silly season in 2006 is gonna be the craziest in NASCAR history. I think we already see that. We've got Juan Montoya coming. That's just the start. It is gonna be the craziest silly season I think you've ever seen. Experienced drivers are really hot commodities right now -- guys that can get it done. It's gonna be a really interesting fall."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A GOOD TEST HERE?
"I've seen guys come here and have a bad test and then come back and run good, but we sure don't want to do that. We don't want to hope for that. I think we're off to a good start. We seem to have respectable speed, much better than we've had in these three disappointing races, and if we've got speed, my team and I can easily adjust our race car to suit my liking. But when you don't have speed, you can adjust it to your liking, but you're still gonna take a whipping on the race track. For some reason we seemed to hit the track running today and I feel good about it. I think it'll be a good time for us to test after taking a whooping the last three races."
IS THE SILLY SEASON ASPECT JUST A REFLECTION OF THE GROWTH OF THIS SPORT?
"There's a great demand for drivers that can get it done and right now, when you look around, the litter is picked over pretty well. We're gonna have at least six or eight really strong financially backed new race teams next year and those kind of race teams that are coming in, that are high-profile, can't bring a guy in that they're taking a chance on that you haven't seen get it done yet. Right now there are some drivers that are coming along, but there are very few Carl Edwards' and Denny Hamlins around that can just take them, plug them in and they'll go. That's a tall order. It typically takes much more time than that, so that's what it is. I certainly would expect to see some retired Cup drivers back in the seat next year. It's gonna be crazy. There are a lot of teams that are gonna come forth that are gonna need drivers and they're gonna want drivers that have gotten it done before."
Continued in part 2