Martin plans to "point race" at Rockingham ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1998) Not winning the Daytona 500 still remains a thorn in Mark Martin's side. What's eating Martin even more, however, is finishing 38th in last Sunday's season opener at...
Martin plans to "point race" at Rockingham
ROCKINGHAM, N.C. (Feb. 18, 1998)
Not winning the Daytona 500 still remains a thorn in Mark Martin's side. What's eating Martin even more, however, is finishing 38th in last Sunday's season opener at Daytona International Speedway, putting him way behind in the overall NASCAR Winston Cup Series point standings.
Martin hopes all of that will change this weekend in the at North Carolina Motor Speedway.
"I might be the only guy in the garage talking about them right now, but I bet you I'm not the only guy in the garage thinking about them," Martin said of the precious points.
"We started the season thinking about points, and we'll think about points at Rockingham, and we're going to think about them all season long, every week."
The driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Taurus entered the 1998 season as one of the favorites for the championship, and even after a slow start, few have changed their minds. He finished 38th in the Daytona 500, losing 13 laps in the pits with a mechanical problem. But such problems are rare for Martin and this team, leaving some to wonder if his bad luck for the year might already be over.
"Anybody not thinking about the points now, with 32 races left, won't have to worry too much about them with two races left - they're not going to be around to worry about it," Martin said. "Believe me, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt and Dale Jarrett and Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace and every other team out there is thinking very seriously about the points situation.
"One race down and they are like us, studying them, thinking, 'If we finish here and he finishes there, we're right back in this thing.' Those on the outside looking in will start paying serious attention to the points around October. Those on the inside started about the time qualifying ended at Daytona."
Martin is in the middle of the longest active streak of consecutive top-10 finishes in the standings -- nine straight years (since he finished third in 1989).
Obviously, Martin, 38, is no stranger to the battle for the championship. The Batesville, Ark., native is one of the biggest names in racing, and his team is Ford's most successful stock car racing team. In fact, they have been, by far, Ford's most productive NASCAR Winston Cup Series points team in the 1990's, and are second only to Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress among total points earned this decade by teams of any make of car. Martin has not finished lower than sixth in the standings since 1989.
Martin has won more money in fewer races at Rockingham than any driver - $508,489 in 23 races. His first series victory came at Rockingham, that in the fall race of 1989. Last year, he finished 13th in the spring and sixth in the fall.
"It's pretty neat to have finished in the top-10 in the Winston Cup standings for all of those years in a row but we haven't won a championship in those nine years either," Martin said. "That's what we're all here for, the championship. Winning races is a great feeling, a feeling I can't describe, one I can't really put into words. I would imagine the Winston Cup championship feels a lot like that, only a whole lot better. That's the kind of feeling we're shooting for.
"To get there, we've got to start counting points now. No matter how you look at it, what it all comes down to is getting as many points as you can possibly get week in and week out. We didn't get too many at Daytona so we're going to need a lot of them from Rockingham. We're already behind as far as the 1998 championship is concerned and we need to get back on the right track.
"We want to win races because it's a great feeling, but we want to win because they give the most points for winning races. If we can't win, then we want to do everything we can do to finish second and, if we can't finish second, do everything we can do to finish third, and on down the line.
"That's the only way to look at it. The richest race, the poorest race; the biggest race crowd, the smallest race crowd; they all pay the same number of points. That makes every race just as important as every other race. Sure, there's something special to the Daytona 500 or Brickyard 400 or wherever, but every race is special because every one of them can carry you to the championship.
"And every one of them can reach up and bite you and cost you a championship. You'd better pay the utmost respect to every one of them, and believe me, this Valvoline team does that.
"We're like everybody else, heading to Rockingham to win. But we want those points that come with winning."
"We'll take the money, too," he said, grinning broadly.
Courtesy of NASCAR Online