This Week in Ford Racing November 5, 2002 NASCAR Winston Cup Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, comes into this weekend's Checker Auto Parts 500 second in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Martin trails leader Tony Stewart...
This Week in Ford Racing
November 5, 2002
NASCAR Winston Cup
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, comes into this weekend's Checker Auto Parts 500 second in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings. Martin trails leader Tony Stewart by 112 points with only two races remaining. He discussed the championship race and a number of other issues as part of the weekly NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference.
MARK MARTIN --6-- Viagra Taurus
ARE YOU TO THE POINT NOW WHERE YOU LOOK AT THIS RACE AND HOPE YOU WIN WHILE TONY HAS SOME BAD LUCK OR AS ANY OTHER WEEK?
"I think a little bit of both. We definitely look at it the same as we do every week because we look at every week with the intent to make every possible effort to win, so we've done that week in and week out. It's easy to forget that a year ago we were racing for 12th in the points and right now we're racing for first or second. It seems like it's never enough, so, obviously, the thing that kind of set us back was a few races ago we had three races in a row where we had mechanical problems. That took some of the wind out of our sail, but we've done everything that we can do all year to minimize those things and we just had a little rash of those kind of things and that happens to everybody. There's always a possibility of the same thing happening to our competition."
SO DO YOU GO TO PHOENIX THINKING ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN?
"Going to Phoenix with at least as much optimism as we went into Rockingham. That was a spectacular effort by the whole team to go in there and qualify fifth, which is one of the very few top-five qualifying efforts of the year for us, and to get second in the pit crew competition on Saturday, and then to lead the most laps and contend for the win in the closing laps Sunday was almost everything you could do."
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR CHIN UP AFTER THE SPRING RULING DOCKED YOU 25 POINTS?
"I've been racing for 28 years or something like that. The last time I counted it was somewhere around 28. Over that period of time I've developed some tools or skills for survival. In order to be successful at anything as competitive as this is, you have to be really, really thick-skinned and you have to be tough or you won't ever survive -- you will never make it to this level. With that said, it doesn't mean that I don't bleed because I do, but I do the best I can with it."
WOULD YOU RATE YOUR CHANCES AS DECENT OR SLIM WITH TWO RACES TO GO? "However I answer that question won't feel exactly right to me. If I answer it with the word 'slim' as you said, then I feel that it might be misinterpreted as some kind of lack of desire or giving up or relinquishing the fight and that's not accurate. But, we are behind and we've got to continue to have great performances like we had last week at Rockingham. In order to win the thing, Tony's got to continue to have performances like he had at Rockingham or worse. We'll see. Racing deals everybody blows at different times. We've received our blows and so has Tony and so have all the guys behind us that are trying to catch us. To be honest with you, I'm real thankful to be contending because I wasn't even contending for a top-10 position last year. I've been blessed with a tremendous season."
NO MATTER HOW IT TURNS OUT, HAS THIS SEASON BEEN A VICTORY CONSIDERING JACK ROUSH IS STILL ALIVE?
"It's a huge victory. I mean, that is the biggest victory of the year was our boss and our hero surviving his accident. There's no question that was the biggest victory -- much bigger than winning this championship would be. Unfortunately, this business is cyclical -- it runs in cycles. You just can't stay on top all the time because of the competition level. We were at the bottom, hopefully the very bottom of the cycle last year, and hopefully we're near the top of the cycle right now. Maybe next year we can reach the very peak of it."
IT SEEMS NOBODY WANTS TO WIN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP. IS THIS ONE OF THE MOST UNUSUAL WINSTON CUP RACES YOU'VE SEEN?
"It is. Let me say one thing, and I understand from someone standing back and not having a better way of describing it than some of the really poor descriptions like, 'nobody wants to win this thing' or 'nobody wants to lead the championship.' I understand that's only a set of words that someone threw on top of it because they didn't know how else to describe it, but that's obscene. The bottom line is though, that, yes, you're correct. This has been a year when no one could get away -- no one could break out and get away and the reason for that is two things. Racing is determined sometimes by coincidence and, secondly, it's by design -- NASCAR's design. This is what they want. For any given team to win -- I think Gordon won 13 in '98 and I won seven and we finished first and second in the points -- I don't know that that will happen again in NASCAR. If it does, it would surprise me. That's not healthy for the business side of this sport and NASCAR watches that very closely. I hope that kind of explains it to you. NASCAR has the rules designed at the present time to prevent anyone from being able to excel to the point of domination."
DO YOU AGREE WITH THAT RULES-WISE?
"If I said I disagreed with it, they would say, 'You live in a nice house, don't you? You've got a nice airplane, don't you?' The racer in me does not like that, no. Obviously, I'm a racer first and foremost, but it has been extremely good for the sport because it's brought so many fans and so much visibility to the sport. It wouldn't be as popular and you wouldn't be as interested in covering this if someone would have won a dozen races and was running away with it. I'd say I have to be non-committal on the thing, but I will say what I said -- the racer in me really hates that, but we're not racing the dirt tracks in Arkansas like I was in 1975, either."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE SPRING AT ROCKINGHAM ON SUNDAY? "I'll do the best I can. I was enjoying this teleconference pretty well up to this point, but I'll go ahead and give you the explanation. NASCAR mandated specifications on front springs to discourage teams from doing specialty kind of springs which would allow them to run extremely soft spring rates in the front of the cars, which led to the cars dragging the race track and gouging the race track and stuff like that. I don't know, it's been close to a year. One of those specifications said that the spring had to have four-and-a-half winds, it had to go around four-and-a-half times, and it could only be so tall. How you make a spring is you take some wire, it's a certain diameter wire, and there's so much wire in a spring. How it's wrapped and wound makes a rate. We run from 400 pounds of front spring up to as stiff as 2200 pounds. That's basically the range that we run in 50-pound increments. You can imagine how many coil springs you have then because you can run two at the same time, like a pair of one thousands for instance. So you've got to have two or three of every rate starting at 400 all the way to 2200 in 50-pound increments, so you've got a lot of springs. Now the only ones that are really affected by this rule are the ones that are basically about 500 pounds and less because those are the ones that are critical to get the additional travel without coil binding. We weren't running that soft at Rockingham because you can't -- the frame would drag. We were running a standard out-of-the-box spring that was a common manufacturer for the springs people run in NASCAR. There are a half-dozen different manufacturer's of front coil springs and this was one of them that is commonly used, and our guys did not check this four-and-a-half coil specification before putting this spring in the car basically because it wasn't a specialty spring. It was common for springs, but when you make a particular rate spring sometimes there has to be less wire in it or more wire in it to get the exact rate that they're trying to manufacture. So, basically, it's an out-of-the-box standard common-used spring that we would use all the time that lacked a little bit, an eighth-of-a-round or, I don't know how much it was, but an eighth-of-an-inch or so on the end of the spring that would have made it meet the specification. It wasn't any kind of competitive advantage or anything like that. We had another one on the trailer that was just like it that had never been in the car -- brand new. There are obviously others floating around there because we found one more at the shop as well that wouldn't meet specification, but that was something you would walk up to the parts truck and buy. It was not a specialty spring, it wasn't anything that had ever crossed their mind of not being right because it was a stronger rate spring. It was a common spring. It was a common spring off of a common manufacturer that hadn't been tampered with or special ordered or anything else that came right from a parts vendor. It's just like if you bought a set of tires from Goodyear, rolled 'em up to the car and put 'em on the car and they weren't right. You don't ever think about that. You never think to check, for example, because it's a common part by a manufacturer that services this sport."
WAS THE PENALTY FAIR AND ARE YOU CONSIDERING AN APPEAL?
"I can't comment on the appeal part and my comment on what's fair and not fair is a tough and delicate situation. Obviously, it wasn't something that we had worked on. It wasn't a part that we had altered to try and gain a competitive advantage or had ordered or special ordered or specified. So, no, it was not like some of the other examples. Now, I don't have a clue of exactly what, let's say the 22's problem was. I know it wasn't this very problem, but I don't know. I can say that it wasn't the same thing as altering a part that is governed by NASCAR, where we did something or built something trying to slip something by. That was never the question and there was no competitive advantage in this spring because you don't run soft spring rates at Rockingham, you can't. Those are only run on the flatter tracks such as Indy and Homestead and places like that. For example, this spring didn't have more travel because of that. It would have to be designed differently in order to do that. It was just the way it was manufactured."
WAS IT A STRANGE FEELING TRYING TO GO AFTER A CAR THAT USED TO BE YOUR SPONSOR AND A GUY THAT ONCE WAS YOUR TEAMMATE?
"The thought never crossed my mind about the sponsorship and it never really crossed my mind that he had been a teammate of mine. It only crossed my mind that it was Johnny Benson and he was racing for his first win and the set of circumstances that you might associate with him trying to get his first win and, of course, his track record and his history of being a clean driver. He certainly didn't deserve to be abused, which I wouldn't do that unless I had been abused, and he had just missed an opportunity to win a race a couple of races ago by driving the way you should and racing Kurt the way he should have raced him. Because of his persistence, two races later he got his win and he got it clean and he slept well."