MARTIN ENJOYS UP AND DOWN LOVE AFFAIR WITH TALLADEGA Veteran will run the 2.6-mile track for the 39th and most likely next to the last time this Sunday CONCORD, N.C. (April 27, 2005) -- Mark Martin remembers his first trip to Talladega ...
MARTIN ENJOYS UP AND DOWN LOVE AFFAIR WITH TALLADEGA
Veteran will run the 2.6-mile track for the 39th and most likely next to the last time this Sunday
CONCORD, N.C. (April 27, 2005) -- Mark Martin remembers his first trip to Talladega Superspeedway as a competitor rather fondly. He made his debut on the high-banks of the 2.66-mile lightning fast superspeedway on August 1, 1981, qualifying second, turning laps of over 200 mph and moving on to a four second victory in the ARCA 200.
"I've always liked Talladega," said Martin. "It was easier to get around than Daytona and I just didn't find it nearly as intimidating. In the beginning we didn't have restrictor plates and handling mattered. Heck, I remember people spinning out there - on their own. It was just a 'big ole' race track that really tested your skills.
"In fact I always had a good relationship with the track," added Martin with a pause. "Before the restrictor plates were added. Eventually it got to where the wrecking was just ridiculous and now you are just so bunched up that you just hope that you can avoid all the trouble."
In an effort to limit the speed of the cars for safety purposes, restrictor plates were added to the cars in 1988 at both Daytona and Talladega forever changing the dynamics of both places. Still, Martin remembers a different time at the track, when drafting was a lot different.
"Back in the day the cool draft was the slingshot," smiled Martin. "Back before you could run the cars wide open, you got a draft and a run on the guy in front of you and you did the slingshot and you could make a pass on him. Then the guy would slingshot you and you did him and he did you etc. That all ended with the restrictor plate. It was already phasing out with the way the cars were changing but the final straw was the restrictor plate.
"The only thing I don't like about it now is that the cars are just going too slow and they are too packed up," explained Martin. "Back when they didn't get in such big packs and when handling was a big factor it was just a lot more fun for the race car driver.
"The frustrating part about it is that your cars means more than you do," said Martin. "No matter how hard you try you can't help the team make the car very much better. That's not the case at unrestricted race tracks. The car doesn't mean more to you and you can help the team make the car better. So it can be frustrating. It's just not about helping your team make the car go faster through the corners."
That's not to say that Martin hasn't enjoyed his share of accomplishments running with the restrictor plate. In fact Martin's 34 top-10 finishes at restrictor-plate tracks are more than anyone else, with 19 of those coming at restrictor-plate races at Talladega.
Martin has clearly had his moments at Talladega over the years as well. He swept the poles there in 1989 and he set track race records in both the Busch and the Cup races there in the spring of 1997. Martin has two Cup wins, two poles, 10 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes at Talladega. For his efforts he was named to the Talladega Hall-of-Fame in 2002. All-in-all Martin has won in three different series at Talladega, Nextel Cup, Busch and IROC. He'll make his 39th Nextel Cup start there this Sunday.
"It's just a different race now," said Martin. "Now it's all about the draft and making the right move, which actually all just depends on what the people around you do. Some guy will make a move and everyone calls it brilliant, but to be honest it's only brilliant if the people around you do the right thing. That can be tough.
"Talladega used to really test your skills as a race car driver," added Martin. "Now it really just tests your patience. I'm not saying that it doesn't take a lot of skill with the draft -- it does, but it's just a different type of skill. You can definitely tell the ones who are really good at that, but if you hang your hat on that type of racing it can be tough. I know I, like a lot of others, will be really anxious to get to Darlington next week where we'll be back to what we do best -- trying to figure out how to make that car go fast through that corner.
"But like I said, I always liked the track and racing there," said Martin. "I just don't like restrictor- plate racing. But the fans there are great and we've always had great support there. They love their racing and they come to have a good time. I know that we'll put a good show on for them next Sunday and that's important.
"And hey, don't think I won't be the first person tuned in to the TV this time next year," added Martin. "It's a great show and I can't wait to watch it for myself. I just can't say that I won't be a little glad not to have to be a part of it."
Roush Racing is a subsidiary of Livonia, Mich., based Roush Industries that operates ten motorsports teams; five in NASCAR Nextel Cup with drivers Mark Martin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards; three in the Busch Series with Martin, Kenseth and Edwards, and two in the Craftsman Truck Series with drivers Ricky Craven and Todd Kluever.