Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 21 points. He held a Q&A session Saturday morning before practice to discuss the chase and his future ...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Taurus, is fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings and trails leader Jimmie Johnson by 21 points. He held a Q&A session Saturday morning before practice to discuss the chase and his future plans.
MARK MARTIN - No. 6 Viagra Taurus
HOW HAS THE SECOND YEAR OF THE CHASE GONE FOR YOU SO FAR?
"It's been different - a lot, lot different. That's OK. It's been kind of quiet. It seems like there's been a lot less going on and that's OK because we've been real focused on performance and on testing and everything, but it seemed like last year there was a lot more interest in what we were doing. There was a lot more stirring around, a lot more media stuff going on. Maybe it was because of the dramatic way we made it in last year, which that would mean maybe Matt should be getting all of that right now."
HAVING MADE IT LAST YEAR THERE WAS THE 'WILL MARK WIN IT THIS YEAR.' HAS THAT ELEMENT BEEN TAKEN AWAY FOR YOU THIS YEAR?
"We don't do all this work for that anyway. We really do it for the competition. You ask the question, 'Is it different?' It's been real different, but it's in a good way. It's allowed us to really focus. Because I'm testing the Truck for the Homestead race, I have six tests in the last 10 races with Busch tests, Cup tests and the Truck test, so, really, I don't have time to mess with a whole lot of other stuff anyway. So it's really allowing us to really focus on the business at hand. It's really all good. I'll be honest with you, I wish we were at Dover again this weekend. I feel fine right now. Last weekend I felt like I was the happiest I've ever been in my life, so I'm really at peace with things. I'm the least concerned about the things that I can't control than I've ever been, which might mean that you never stop maturing. I don't know. Maybe getting old agrees with me, I don't know."
HOW HAS IT BEEN RACING WITH RUSTY THE LAST FEW WEEKS?
"The only thing is he's finished one spot in front of me both times, but I had him. I had him at New Hampshire and just ran out of time. It's really, really great to see Rusty having the kind of year he's having. He's certainly gonna be able to say that he went out at the top of his game, which most people can't say, and he really has a tremendous shot at this championship."
DOES WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO DO NEXT YEAR WEIGH ON YOU AT ALL?
"It doesn't weigh on me at all. I have to say that at this point it's 99 percent sure I'll be in the 6 car. I don't really see any scenario that would bail me out of that."
ARE YOU AT PEACE WITH THAT?
"I'm very much at peace with that because it doesn't exist in my world at this time (laughter). I know it's there. I know I'm gonna do it. It doesn't exist in my world, and that is part of what I said about being at peace with the things I can't control. My way of dealing with it, my psychology on myself is it just doesn't exist."
HOW ARE ARLENE AND MATT WITH THAT DECISION?
"They were involved in the decision and in the talks from the very beginning. I said in 2006 that I would put my family first and I feel like if they were involved in the decision and they made the decision that was the way to go, that that's putting them first even though they would still take a backseat timewise. I still feel like I put them first, so that's how I view that psychology on myself."
HOW ARE YOUR FANS HANDLING THE NEWS?
"They're excited - big time."
ANY BACKLASH WITH THERE BEING ONE MORE YEAR?
"No, they're real excited."
DOES THIS TAKE PRESSURE OFF KNOWING YOU HAVE ONE MORE YEAR TO RACE?
"No, it doesn't take any off because, as far as I'm concerned, this is my last chance at a championship. If you don't make the chase, you can't win it. As of right now, I don't expect to make the chase next year because I know how hard it is. Obviously, we will do everything we can, but, like I say, 2006 doesn't exist. It just doesn't, for me but we'll deal with that when it comes to us. I'm not gonna work on that right now. I've got a lot of other things to worry about, whether or not I can be as fierce and as focused and all those things in 2006, I don't know if I can. I will deal with that later. All I know is I was able to give more than I ever thought was possible in 2005 because it was gonna be my last year and now I can't do that again. You can only do that once, so I'll have to come up with something else for next year and I don't know what that will be at this time."
HAVE YOU HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT RESTRICTOR PLATES AT CHARLOTTE?
"They better not."
DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS WITH THE TRACK?
"It's the same as May - not more, not less. It's the same as May."
DO YOU FEEL A RESTRICTOR PLATE RACE SHOULD BE IN THE CHASE BECAUSE YOU RUN THEM DURING THE SEASON OR IS THAT ONE OF THE THINGS YOU CAN'T CONTROL SO YOU'RE NOT WORRYING ABOUT IT?
"That's a competitor's viewpoint. At the end of the day it's supposed to be all about entertainment. I hate racing here in today's format - the way the racing has become, but it's one of the best ones to watch on TV. It's not about us, it's about them. It's about television. It's about the fans. I think the competitors would rather see a race where you had more control over your destiny than this, but that doesn't matter."
HOW DO YOU GET IN A POSITIVE FRAME OF MIND FOR THE RACE EVEN IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT?
"I'm not. I'm gonna go out there and do the best I can. That's all."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN CONTROL IN THE RACE?
"I can control the effort - that I can control. Our effort, my effort - that's all I can control. I can't even come close to controlling the outcome of it. If we take our hit tomorrow, then that's what it is. It won't be because I didn't try or did something wrong. It'll be because of things I couldn't control."
YOU ARE THE ONLY CHASE DRIVER WITH A WIN HERE. DOES THAT MEAN ANYTHING? "I don't think it does, but it's good for you guys to write about (laughter)."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU'VE SEEN THAT WOULD BE A BETTER WAY OF RACING AT A PLACE LIKE TALLADEGA?
"You can't race 230 mile an hour cars at 190 and have it be a great race from a competitor's standpoint. Although, the best racing in the business is Talladega and IRL cars, which are the same thing as Talladega - wide open, easy, wide open all the way around. All of their finishes are this much (fingers inches apart). They're good to watch. The competitors are keeping their mouths shut, but they're hating it because it's not what we do. This is different than how we all grew up racing. That's what it is. They can't fix it unless they take the banks out of this place and they won't do that because it's about show business. It's not about the competitors."
WHAT'S BEEN THE MOST GRATIFYING PART OF THE SALUTE TOUR?
"The fan's response. The most fun part of it was the Ford Fan Days at Batesville (Mark's Ford Dealership), where we had two days worth - all day for two days. Instead of going in and signing autographs for two hours and heading out, I was able to be there all day both days with the fans. I was able to spend real quality time looking at their old photographs, talking, taking pictures. That's not something that we're able to do under normal scenarios and we intend to do that annually. Next time we do it we'll be at the new facility with the museum."
HAS THE YEAR LIVED UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS?
"In every way. This has been the best year of my life, starting with the support I've had from Matt and Arlene. Even though it's been in small quantities and small doses, it's been the best quality that we have ever had. And then obviously from the fans and their response, and from the effort of this team and from the performance and results that we've gotten on the race track. It's all been the best that anybody could ever ask for."
HOW MANY PEOPLE CAME TO THE BATESVILLE SHOP?
"It was a lot. There were something like 10,000 over the course of two days. Batesville only has a population of 9500, so all of the hotels were sold out. The thing that's good about Arkansas is that even though we're 100 miles to Little Rock and 120 to Memphis, every 30 miles there is a small town that has a hotel and other things. It's a very rural area, so you can spread out a little bit and make it all work. It was really, really cool. We had a race at the dirt track where I started on Saturday night and we all went. They had a great crowd there and the whole event was just spectacular. For me it meant so much to be able to spend a little bit more quality time with the fans and looking at old photos that they have that I don't have. I've got a lot of old photos, but theirs was different than mine and remembering old times."
ARE YOU STILL TRYING TO RECLAIM THOSE ASA TROPHIES?
"They're gone. I don't even have one ASA trophy in my collection, but we have been very successful at reclaiming the NASCAR stuff. We're fairly close. Forty-seven Busch wins is kind of tough to round up. I think we're about there on the Cup stuff. I believe we have the IROC stuff. We don't have the pole stuff, but we're pretty close on the Busch."
WOULD IT BE ACCURATE TO SAY THAT AS FAR AS THE FUTURE YOU ARE HAVING SUCH A GREAT SEASON AND YOU DON'T WAN TYOUR CAREER TO END AND YOU'RE EXCITED ABOUT NEXT SEASON?
"No, that's way wrong. I'm not excited about 2006. First of all, the driver situation in the garage right now is horrible for replacements. There is no one who is ready to step into a top car. That's why people are fighting over Kurt Busch and Jamie McMurray. There's no one available that's ready. My heroes are the guys that put me in this chase. I went to them a year ago right now, many of them had career opportunities, and I selfishly asked them to 'please give me one more chance at this thing,' and they did and they have. I can't ask them to do that again, so I don't know what's gonna happen with that. I owe this opportunity to those guys, to Pat Tryson, and to Jack Roush and to 18 years of my career. If they can't do better this time next year, then that's gonna be their tough luck. But, for now, I'm not gonna leave them hanging. I'm not gonna do it. I love my team and Jack Roush too much to leave them with a total empty hole for 2006. There are gonna be a lot of drivers freed up next year and hopefully there will be some rookies that look like they're ready, but, as of today, there are no rookies that are available that look like they're ready to step into a car like the 6 car. I'm sure that 12 months from now the situation will look better. Either way, they're gonna work it out, but that's definitely not the right take on it."
NO SECOND THOUGHTS RIGHT NOW?
"No second thoughts at all. The only second thought I have is doing it. That's the only second thoughts that I ever have. We had plans. I was excited about them. My family was excited about them. We have made the decision to not leave these guys in a jam and give them time to come up with a better situation than what they were faced with for 2006."