Phoenix: This Week in Ford Racing

This Week in Ford Racing April 18, 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the No. 6 Scotts Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, participated in a press...

This Week in Ford Racing
April 18, 2006

NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and the No. 6 Scotts Ford F-150 in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, participated in a press conference today at Lowe's Motor Speedway to discuss the upcoming Nextel All-Star Challenge and Coca-Cola 600. Martin, the defending winner of the Nextel All-Star Challenge, also talked about a variety of other topics.

MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion and No. 6 Scotts Ford F-150

YOU WERE ON THE TRACK THIS AFTERNOON IN A ROUSH MUSTANG. WAS THAT YOUR FIRST TIME ON THE NEW TRACK SURFACE AT LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY? "Yes. I've had the opportunity to take a few laps in a Roush Mustang and check out the race track. I think most everybody in motorsports knows that this is the race track that sets the standard in my world. I've said this is the greatest race track in the world, and it certainly is to me anyway. The new pavement looks beautiful. They did such an incredible job of laying it. It's smooth as silk and the race track still has every bit the same personality. In other words, the transitions off of turn two and turn four. The transition into three is the same, and it's very clear and obvious to me that the challenge of the entry of turn one is the greatest challenge, which it always is and always has been. It will be a greater challenge, I think, at the high speeds that we're going to be running. The need for widening the turn into turn one is going to put you right on the edge on the turn into turn one. I bet there'll be a visit or two into the wall there about halfway through one and two, by hopefully not me. I'll bet they'll be a few visits there. It looks beautiful and you couldn't have asked for a more awesome looking job on the paving. I know these guys know how to mix the asphalt so that it stays down for us. They haven't had any trouble in years and years with that. They figured that out years ago, and so I'm very confident that we're going to have a great surface to race on. And, as we put an enormous amount of rubber on it during the Cup test, we'll see its personality probably take on, and, of course, the Busch test following. By the time we get to the All-Star weekend, the race track should have a lot of rubber on it considering it's a fresh pave job. We're excited about coming back here."

HOW WAS YOUR DEAL IN BATESVILLE, ARK. LAST WEEK? "It was outstanding. I'm not sure what we called it. Last year we called it Ford Fan Days, and I guess that's what we're going to call it because it's going to be an annual event. It will be Friday and Saturday before Easter annually. This was the second one that we had, but the first one at the new museum and dealership there at Batesville. Thanks to many of you, we really got the word out really well. We had an overwhelming crowd there on Friday and even larger on Saturday. Folks came from everywhere. From L.A. -- and that's not Lower Alabama (laughing) -- as well as many couples from Minnesota and people from New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Ohio, and just from everywhere. It was a fantastic turnout. It was the most fun event I did in 2005. In 2006, it was a lot of fun. It was a little bit more of a challenge because I was the only one signing autographs this year. Last year I had Kurt Busch and Rusty Wallace helping me out. I took all of these guys on and I got everybody an autograph that came for one over the course of two days. It was really special to share with them, and I'm very proud how it all came together there. I'm very proud to share that with our fans and it was great."

WHICH OF THE TWO VICTORIES IS MORE SPECIAL TO YOU -- YOUR 2002 COCA-COLA 600 WIN OR LAST YEAR'S ALL-STAR RACE? "I think that in my case, the older I get the more rubbery my brain gets, so things don't penetrate it very well. Obviously, the last win is the best win because it's the one I can remember the most. Honestly, the All-Star win, this last one, I felt like I made -- and it was because of luck -- but I felt like I made the largest contribution in my career to winning a race. Every move I made, luckily, was the right move. I drove probably uncharacteristically aggressive, and everything that I did on the race track happened to turn out to be the right thing. We had a very good car, but I have a good car often. We managed to win that race where it would have been easy if things hadn't worked out so well for me, I could have been further back in the field. Arlene and Matt were there and it was a great, great celebration. We had the retro paint scheme along with the Salute Tour and everything that was going on. I truly believe that some of the fans' response to that was the retro paint scheme because I think some people remembered that far back and remembered us out there battling in those years. I think it meant something to those fans that have been around for a while, and I think it's real special to everyone. Their response was real special."

GIVE AN UPDATE ON MATT MARTIN'S RACING CAREER AND HIS PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR WHEN YOU HAVE MORE TIME TO SPEND WITH HIM. "Well, Matt's racing in Late Models this year. He's got him a Ford Fusion and Coca-Cola on the side of it, so it's a real pretty car. It's number 66 because he says that's twice as good as 6. And, of course, if you ask him, he'll tell you he is twice as good as his dad, too (laughing). And he is with the media and the fans. He's going to be racing about once a month this summer in that Late Model. That's about as much as he and his mama, especially his mama, really care to do, especially since I'm not around. He's just having fun with it. He's 14, and next year, we haven't made any long-range plans, he will be old enough to race in Hooters Cup a time or two. Anything that we do, we're just going to be playing with. We're not going to run a whole Hooters Cup schedule and all that because I'm going to be racing in the truck series and stuff like that. His mother is not going to travel him all over the country. And, his education is primary. We don't want him to be missing school for much of anything. We want to make sure that's primary. There's a chance he might do some Hooters Cup racing or something else. Right now we're kind of planning on the next race. His next race is the 29th. Talladega Saturday night is the best way I can remember it. It's April 29th at New Smyrna. I may get a chance to get back to see that one, so that would be special. Then he's going to race two weeks after that, again at New Smyrna."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PERSONNEL CHANGES AT ROUSH THAT WERE ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK? "Well, I've learned from experience that whenever I don't completely understand something, if I ever have a chance to sit down and listen to Jack's rationalization of what has taken place, it makes a lot more sense. I know that things are going to work out very well at the 99. I know that things will work out very well at the 26. Jack and I have not had a conversation yet, and I don't know what his grand plan is for Jimmy. Obviously, Jimmy and I go all the way back just about. I know that there's tremendous opportunity in Roush Racing for Jimmy to be a huge asset, but I don't know if or what Jack has planned. I hope that Jack is in a position to figure out a way to utilize Jimmy to make all of our teams stronger, which is something that could be a plus for the whole organization. Both of those crew chiefs on those Cup cars were my engineers. Bob was my engineer and it crushed me when they promoted him to head engineer. Then we got Wally, and we loved Wally. I was real disappointed when we had to promote him to head engineer, and so then I just said, 'I've got to have a proven one.' I went back on over there and got another new guy. I was able to get Mike Janow to come over to the 6 car from the 97. Both of those guys went to head engineer and then became crew chiefs, and both of them are incredible. Wally Brown is going to do really well, and Bob already has."

YOU HAVE DONE A LOT TO PROMOTE UP-AND-COMING DRIVERS INTO THE SPORT. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH JARED LANDERS? "I'm so glad you brought that up because I would forget. Jared Landers -- and you're talking about the race this weekend (Colossal 100 @ LMS Dirt Track) -- is going to be out here. He's going to be in car 06, which is actually the brick car. It's the Mark Martin Ford car, and it's got my image on the car and everything. Jared is the son of my partner at the dealership, and Jared has won several Modified races already this year on dirt and is just getting his feet wet with this Late Model, and is doing a fabulous job. He's a great driver and it's going to be across the street. That car is the car that I'm going to be driving at Eldora with the Prelude to The Dream on June 7th. We're all pretty close; it all kinda goes around in a circle. I'm going to be pulling for Jared this weekend even though I'm in Phoenix. I'm going to be in touch with him and I wish him luck. It's going to be a very competitive race over here. They're expecting 165 cars, so just to make that A main there will be a huge feat and I wish him luck. He's young, he's aggressive, he has a lot of talent and he's got a cool looking car."

WHAT IS YOUR PLAN FOR RACING AT LOWE'S IN MAY? "I almost just blurted out, 'All of them,' but you may be having an ARCA race that I don't know about. As far as I know I'm just about running everything that you've got. Definitely running the truck race, the All-Star race, the Busch race and the Cup race. There will be plenty of track time at my favorite place, and I promise that I'm going to try to be smiling the whole time no matter what. I really look forward to it. This is, and I mean it, and you know I don't blow a lot of smoke, I'm telling you, I love this place. This is it, and I'm excited about coming here and racing that much."

WITH THIS BEING THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BUSCH SERIES AND THE FACT THAT CHARLOTTE HAS BEEN ONE OF THE SEVEN TRACKS THAT HOSTED THE SERIES FROM THE START, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WHERE THE SERIES IS TODAY? "The Busch Series has come a long way since 1987. Nineteen Eighty Seven was the year I came down here and ran the full schedule in Busch. I don't mean to veer off of it, but I just want to say that some of the coolest things that I've seen this year was having the Busch champions, like Jack Ingram and Tommy Ellis, and all of those guys, on TV at Daytona. I really want to commend whoever was in charge of that because this is a sport that as soon as you're gone from the public eye, you're gone. It really meant a lot for me to see those guys. I wasn't hanging out with them, but I felt like I was just sitting by the TV listening to them. I thought that was really cool. But, racing has changed a lot. It has had tremendous growth. It is certainly right there alongside Nextel Cup racing today with huge sponsors and very full fields and everything. I just want to thank the fans for that. I know that NASCAR has worked at it, I know that the guys here at the speedway have worked at it and all of the other speedways to promote the sport, and the media and everything else, but honestly, we wouldn't be where we are today if it wasn't for these great fans. They were here back in 1987, but they're here strong today. The growth has been incredible from the fans and that's what's brought all of the rest of it. It's brought the competitors; it's brought the sponsors and everything else. It's a great opportunity for all of us, so I definitely want to thank the fans for their support.

YOU SAID YOU WOULD NEVER RACE CUP FULL-TIME AGAIN AND CIRCUMSTANCES BROUGHT YOU BACK THIS YEAR. COULD IT HAPPEN AGAIN? "You had to be there in the conversation because what it was is: I've already said never once and I can't say a bunch of nevers this year because I don't want to do that twice. Pretty much of what I said was that there is no way that I would be back full time again, although I wouldn't put it past them to ask me to come back. I'm not going to do that. I have 13 more weekends off in 2007 right now, and I won't surrender any of those 13 to testing or to a NASCAR race. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't necessarily go to a Friday night short track somewhere, or even possibly a Saturday night, but I won't surrender those. Those will leave open some others that I'm already going to be here. I've already indicated that I have no interest in the Busch Series. I've got to be careful now about saying never."

WHAT IF YOU NEEDED TO FILL IN FOR AN INJURED TEAMMATE? "That's what I've tried to say all along. There may be a situation where I'm needed as a fill-in or whatever. I'm just not going to say it couldn't happen. The thing that I do know is that I'm not going to surrender those 13 weekends. Then, I have to be careful about that because, honestly, if one of the five Cup drivers was injured, then under that circumstance I would. If Matt or Greg or Jamie or Carl were to get injured then that might be a different story. I've got to be careful about what I say. The way I said it was that if you go all through that, there is some wiggle room on the truck race weekends. There is some wiggle room and I just can't say never."

YOUR SCHEDULE IS PRETTY FULL THIS SEASON. "Well, I'm no Kenny Schrader, but I am racing quite a bit this year, that's for sure. I just wound up involved in a lot. Definitely, my heart was in the truck thing. I wanted to start working with my team and learn a little bit about the series and the vehicles and get my team working, and that grew into a bigger schedule than I had planned. And, I got myself tied up to a number of Busch races that I hadn't expected to. Of course, IROC wrote me a check for $1 million in November. Even though I didn't need to be racing in any more races, when they come calling you can believe that I will be there. And, I'm having the time of my life, which is unexpected. I went in to February at Daytona not knowing what to expect and very concerned that it might be a tough year for me to meet it with the kind of fire that I needed to, but I think by the time we left Daytona Sunday night, I think we had found it. It feels like home when I strap into that race car and I love Pat and my guys, and Jack's support is phenomenal and the fans have been overwhelming with their response to my coming back for another year. I'm living a dream."

HOW SHOULD NASCAR USE ITS DRIVERS AFTER THEY RETIRE FROM COMPETITION? "Well, I don't know, unless they ask me to tell them what springs to run because I'm not very smart about all of the rest of that. I really did enjoy seeing Tommy Ellis and Jack Ingram and all of those guys that I got to see. I didn't see all of them because they were on at different times, but that is sad. Ernie got hurt and there was no place for him, and I feel bad about that. Bobby Allison would have loved to have been a part of this sport for a lot longer time than he was, and there just really wasn't a place. I think that everybody can feel sad about that. I don't know what the answer is. For me, it felt good to see those guys because I identified with them because I used to race with them and they were the men when I was getting started. I looked up to them, and I still do in the same way, and I think that was a good experience for me and I think other people could benefit from the same experience."

WHEN IT'S ALL SAID AND DONE, HOW DO YOU WANT TO REMEMBERED BY THIS SPORT? "Here's my answer to that one: I just want to be remembered. I couldn't say how I would want to be remembered. It would be an honor and a privilege to remembered by the competitors as well as the fans."

WHEN COMPETITORS SAY THAT THEY WISH MORE PEOPLE DROVE LIKE MARK MARTIN, HOW MUCH DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU? "Honestly, respect is the greatest compliment that you could ever give anyone, so that kind of respect means everything to me. I learned a lot of my racing etiquette from Dick Trickle and the guys that raced in Wisconsin in the 70s and early 80s. That stuck with me ever since. They didn't tear up very much stuff up there, and they raced five nights a week. The races didn't pay very much, and we couldn't afford to be tearing your stuff up all the time. And, they race hard. They could still do that and not tear the heck out of everything. When I came in up there, they wanted to get that straight right away that I was going to mess it up for them if I was running over them all the time. I have to give them the credit for my driving style, what we learned in order to survive in the environment that we were in at the time."

WHY DO SOME OF THE YOUNGER RACERS STRUGGLE WITH THAT TODAY? "Because they haven't fixed their own race cars. It would probably take months to fix one wreck without any help. You wouldn't fix it but once, and you wouldn't tear it up anymore."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DALE JR.? "Dale Sr. was tough on Junior. Junior just didn't get a lot of things handed to him. He got the name handed to him, but the rest of it he had to earn, and it shows. Dale Jr. is a fine young man who had to show that he wanted it really bad, and he worked for the opportunity to be a NASCAR driver. He had to work for it, and look how that turned out. He's a fierce, aggressive competitor that doesn't cause hardly any trouble on the race track. That's what you want. The fans really want to see fierce competition, but they know you can have that and not have a wreck-fest. That's what they really want to see is drivers who race hard and competitive and race close, and a little rubbing is OK, but nobody wants to go see a demolition derby."

IS THERE A WAY TO BRING YOUNG DRIVERS IN TO THE SPORT AND NOT HAVE THEM DEFECT LATER IN THEIR YOUNG CAREERS? "That's a complex question that's way over my head. I think we're learning because it's changing so much because you're talking about getting 14-year-olds, maybe younger. Some of them, when they're shining and bright as Joey Logano, he needed to be signed at 14 years old, and you can't really sign a 14-year-old to anything law-wise that will really hold up. There's a lot of things yet to be learned by everyone in business about how to manage to nurture and bring some of these guys in. And then other ones, maybe nothing happens. Once in a while you've got somebody as bright and shiny as Joey, and you've got figure out how you can bring him in and bring him along."

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE NEW TRACK SURFACE? "No, I'm not concerned with the track at all. Obviously, history says that there should be concerns about tires being able to be durable enough to hold up. Even though they held up in the test, will they hold up once the rubber starts laying down? No knock against Goodyear, we're just talking about 200 mph speeds at a downforce race track. It's just an incredible challenge that I think we're going to have to wait and see. I don't think that we could expect anything worse than what we had last year, but hopefully tire durability won't be an issue. If it's not, then it's all good and every time we race at this race track it will get more racy."

WILL THE SMALLER FUEL CELL HELP THE RACING? "I think it's too early to tell. It's going to change the complexion of the race. If there are durability issues, then a smaller fuel cell will be a good thing. If there's not durability issues with the tires, then the smaller fuel cell is going to create more cautions, more accidents and a more difficult race to strategize. To plan and to pit will be a tremendous challenge from that aspect. I wish that we were in a situation that we knew we had confidence that we're not going to have tire durability issues, and then you have the big fuel cells and it would be a little bit more like old school racing."

-ford racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Kurt Busch , Bobby Allison , Joey Logano , Mark Martin