MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his road racing success and background, this season compared to 2009, Father's Day and racing, and more. ON COMING BACK TO SONOMA AND RACING ON A ROAD COURSE: "My thoughts are...
MARK MARTIN, NO. 5 GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET met with media and discussed his road racing success and background, this season compared to 2009, Father's Day and racing, and more.
ON COMING BACK TO SONOMA AND RACING ON A ROAD COURSE: "My thoughts are to let the fun begin! It's going to get started here pretty soon. It's been wild racing out here it seems like every year that we come out the racing gets tougher and tougher. The drivers get better and better at it throughout the field and the cars continue to get more equal and it gets tougher every year. So, I'm looking forward to it. It's a lot of fun. Road racing is fun. To me it's just driving a car. Oval track racing is sort of oval track racing. To me, road course racing is just driving a car fast and keeping it out of the ditch."
DO YOU LOOK AT THIS AS A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN POTENTIALLY PICK UP A LOT BECAUSE YOU ARE ONE OF THE BETTER ROAD RACERS, OR DO YOU LOOK AT IT AS MORE OF A CHALLENGE SINCE YOU TOOK OFF A COUPLE YEARS AND DIDN'T ROAD RACE? "I used to look at this place as a potential upside place although the people we were racing were good road course racers as well as oval racers. And the best teams usually are. It's gotten so competitive and the cars have gotten so much less speed differential from the front to the back and the drivers have all gotten good at it that you know, it's a lot tougher. It's a tougher race. And the gas mileage gets to be more and more of a challenge as well. So, it presents different challenges and it's an equal opportunity I think, not to go forward or back but just come here and battle like we do every week."
YOU HAVE GREAT ROAD COURSE RACING EXPERIENCE. BUT AFTER YOUR HIATUS, YOU SEEMED TO STRUGGLE A LITTLE BIT LAST YEAR. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THAT EXPERIENCE AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO BRUSH-UP ON YOUR ROAD COURSE SKILLS? "Well, as we did last year, we did some testing; we did some testing last year as well, but we didn't perform well at either road course last year. And so Hendrick Motorsports has put a lot of effort into raising the level and we're going to find out this weekend if we were able to do that or not. A lot of effort as gone into it by our team as well as all the teams out there that we race against. It used to be two road course races were kind of a throw away for many of the race teams. They didn't want to put a lot into it because it was two races. And now every race team puts everything they have; it's amazing the effort that goes into the two road course races as opposed to 15 years ago."
GIVEN YOUR BACKGROUND, WHERE DID YOUR ROAD COURSE PROFICIENCY COME FROM? DID YOU HAVE TO WORK AT IT OR DID IT JUST CLICK FOR YOU AT SOME POINT? "Oh, no, it just came naturally. I grew up in the rural areas of Arkansas. I drove a lot of dirt country roads that were curvy and hilly and I drove fast (laughter). It's the same thing. It's no different. Remember me saying staying out of the ditch? I started road racing when I was very young on the dirt roads in Arkansas (laughs). I went as fast as I could and stayed out of the ditch and that's all this is to me. It came very natural. I did, however, have Jack Roush in my corner and Jack was pretty smart. He figured out telling me what to do might not be the best approach so he asked a lot of the right questions. And so I didn't realize he was teaching me but he asked a lot of the right questions. He had some background in road racing and he asked a lot of the right questions of me about the car, the braking, the this and the that. And so subtly, that helped as well. I never really gave him the credit that he was probably due for that because he was pretty wise. He was wise enough that I didn't notice so much what he was doing."
ON FATHER'S DAY AND THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RACING AND FAMILY "Obviously I miss my dad enormously. He was a big part of my racing and he was my biggest fan and quite a character. So I really, really miss him and it makes my heart warm when I see Ned Jarrett at the race track when Dale is there or I see Buzzie Reutimann at the race track on the weekend or I see Tony Stewart's dad or Tom Logano. I think that's really, really cool and I try to remind them because I know that they don't realize how special that is because it's happening. But I realize how special it is. And I wish I had more days like that myself. It's something that's really special.
"It's a special time that I was able to spend with my son through his racing because it was different then if he was playing Little League Baseball because I could cheer for him but I couldn't help him. So through racing we were able to spend some really great quality time where I really felt like I could do something to help him. So we had great times going that and it was good. It was good for our relationship. He quit racing four years ago and I'm able to help him in some other areas today but probably none as much as I was able to when he was racing. That was kind of fun for me."
COMPARING THE FIRST 15 RACES OF LAST YEAR UP AGAINST THE FIRST 15 OF THIS YEAR, THE NO. 5 TEAM IS CLEARLY NOT PERFORMING LIKE LAST YEAR. WHY DO YOU THINK THAT IS, AND WHAT ARE THE DIFFICULTIES IN GETTING BACK TO WHERE YOU WERE? "Well, we're not performing, but we are. We're better in execution than we were a year ago. We're taking what we have and we're finishing better with it than we did a year ago. Had we been doing as good a job last year, as we have this year, functioning in that respect, we wouldn't have been sweating quite as hard about making the Chase. But completion is a moving target. And not only have we had to deal with tires that are different at every race that we go to, but some of the changes to the cars have actually affected the cars more than we realized on the surface. And our competition has either responded or it worked in their favor or both, and elevated them above us in the stack. In this business as a moving target, you can't always be at the top of the stack, no matter who you are. No one ever does.
"And it's just our hope that through our work and through the things that we're starting to see that we're able to work ourselves back up there. And that's pretty much it. Our cars have not been as fast on the race track on average as they were a year ago; although I had the best car I've ever had at Martinsville this year. I had a winning car at Bristol and Martinsville this year. And I had a great race car in California this year. I think all that came before the spoiler change. Two of them were short tracks, which shouldn't have mattered about the spoiler. So there have been some places that we've performed really strong on the race track and didn't necessarily get the finish that we needed but there have been some places where we didn't perform as strong and we've gotten tremendous finished based on great execution and team work."
ON THE SPOILER (QUESTION INAUDIBLE) "Using those words might not be exactly right because my cars have driven really good this year; really driven good. They just haven't been as fast. Last year they didn't really always drive all that great but they were flying. And that's mostly what I cared about (laughs). And we haven't managed to get them as uncomfortable this year and as fast. We can them uncomfortable; we can't get them as fast. We're working on that."
SHOULD NASCAR HAVE MORE ROAD COURSES? "I think if you look at the schedule, that's pretty self-explanatory. That's kind of a pie in the sky question, to me because our schedule is full. So how are we going to have more road courses? Take ovals away? That's not a popular answer either so I don't know. I will tell you this. NASCAR has brought the sport to where it is today. Had I been in charge, it wouldn't be anywhere as near where it is today. So, I wouldn't be the best one to answer that question; they are."
AT WHAT POINT DOES CHASE PREPARATION START IN ERNEST? AND WHAT'S THE DIFFICULT OF BALANCING THAT WITH WHAT YOU'RE DOING ON A CURRENT RACE WEEKEND? "Well it depends on where you're at; whether you're battling to make it or if you're comfortably in. If you're comfortably in, you're going one of two things: Either just refining what you've got in preparation of the Chase, or you're looking for more and you can afford to try some things that are outside of the box because you're in good shape in the points. It all just depends on where you're at. For us right now, we're working really hard on trying to make gains in our competition level and hopefully peak as the Chase gets ready to start. If we hopefully make the Chase and be ready to peak then and it's not like we're holding back right now to do that. We're working hard and I think it's everybody's goal in the garage to do that. That's what we're trying to do."
ON RICK HENDRICK'S INDUCTION TO THE WALL OF FAME "Well, I'm glad to see it. Rick is such an incredible person first and foremost; and what he's meant to the sport and meant to the people in the sport and what he's accomplished is amazing. So, it's good to see him being recognized here for that."
WHAT'S YOUR ADVICE TO THE NEW DADS IN THE GARAGE? "Well I think they're all going to be great dads and if their first-time dad's its just awesome. It's a life-changing experience. I'm really enjoying watching first-hand the impact it's having on Matt Kenseth and these guys. It's the experience of a lifetime. It just keeps getting better, too. I congratulate them."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART OF QUALIFYING FOR YOU AT SONOMA? "It's hard to day. They're all tough because you're trying to push past the capabilities of your car just a little bit. So some of the high-speed corners it's easy to push hard enough to slip off and you do that and it gets done. But then this last corner down here, it's tough as well because you're pushing the brake as late as possible and you push three feet too far and lock the brakes up and you're done there too. So, it's a tougher qualifying lap than an oval even though an oval can scare you to death, it least it just does it four times (laughter); a lot of chances to mess up here!"
-source: gm racing