Watkins Glen Ford Racing preview

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Taurus, has four NASCAR Winston Cup road-course victories including three at Watkins Glen. Martin, who comes into the weekend 10th in the point standings, spoke about the final road-course event of the...

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Valvoline Taurus, has four NASCAR Winston Cup road-course victories including three at Watkins Glen. Martin, who comes into the weekend 10th in the point standings, spoke about the final road-course event of the season and the bad luck that has plagued him.

MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus -- YOU ONCE SAID THE OBJECT OF ROAD RACING IS TO STAY OUT OF THE DITCHES, RIGHT? "That's right, the object of road-racing is to go as fast as you can and stay out of the ditches. Watkins Glen has been a real fun place for me to drive even though it's especially challenging to pass, but we've always been pretty successful at doing that. I've been pretty fortunate there and we're looking forward to going back."

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC PARTS TO THE COURSE THAT ARE BETTER FOR OUT-BRAKING SOMEONE OR TO PASS IN GENERAL? "There's really only one passing zone and that's going into turn one. We do a little passing in some other places, but it's unconventional passing. Even though we do it, it's like Sears Point where there's only one passing zone there too."

SHOULD ROAD COURSES BE PART OF THE SERIES? MAYBE THERE SHOULD BE MORE THAN JUST TWO ROAD COURSE EVENTS? IT SEEMS THOSE QUESTIONS ALWAYS ARISE. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT? "I think it's fine. I think there's certainly a place in Winston Cup racing for road courses. If there's a place in Winston Cup racing for Martinsville, there's a place for road-course racing as well. I think the fans love it. I think it makes good TV and I think it's an excellent addition to our schedule."

AS LONG AS IT DOESN'T RAIN? "Yeah, I don't think -- well, where I'm at in the points I hope it does rain because it doesn't matter (laughing). My problem with trying to race Cup cars in the rain is points. Points don't matter anymore where I'm sitting, so I don't care if it rains or not. I'd just as soon do it in the rain as not because I know I would do better than most, but I just didn't want to get caught trying to race for a championship driving in the rain. There are too many things you can't control. It's not fair to put a guy in a position where he can lose points in situations he can't control like visibility and accidents. The lack of visibility can put you in a bad situation, but I wouldn't mind it this time. I feel different about it this year than last."

AFTER YOUR ACCIDENT AT INDIANAPOLIS YOU SAID THAT IT'S ALMOST LAUGHABLE THE THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU THIS YEAR. "Yeah, I wasn't even all that mad. If that would have happened a year ago I would have had to either kill myself or some one. I really didn't get that mad because it's just like, 'I can't believe it.' That's why it took me so long to get out of the car, I wasn't hurt I was just stunned. I couldn't believe that I was wrecked on lap 15."

IS IT A CASE NOW WHERE YOU JUST FOCUS WEEK TO WEEK ON THAT SPECIFIC RACE AND TRY TO WIN AS MANY AS POSSIBLE? "It still doesn't matter. All it does is take a little bit of stress and strain off of scoring every point and puts a little bit more stress and strain on just sheer performance. So it's still just as strenuous, but the strain is in a little different focus. If you're in the points championship you never want to lose a point. If you're gonna run sixth you've gotta kill yourself for fifth. If you're not in the points championship, if you're running sixth you've gotta really try to kill yourself to figure out how to get first out of it. It's just a little bit different reality that you're dealing with."

DO YOU FEEL IT'S UP TO YOU TO TRY AND KEEP YOUR CREW UP AND EXCITED DURING A ROUGH STRETCH LIKE THIS? "Fortunately, they don't need me to do that. I would, and I have in the past, but it's not critical. They're handling that on their own very well, so, therefore, it's not something I have to make a specific effort to do. I always try to project a good attitude and a good vibe to everyone and try to keep everybody pumped up, but this is a great race team that doesn't thrive on my attitude or rely on me to carry the attitude. They've got a good attitude and, if anything, they pump me up."

AND GOING TO A TRACK WHERE YOU'VE HAD SUCCESS LIKE WATKINS GLEN GIVES EVERYONE A REASON FOR OPTIMISM? "We feel pretty good about Watkins Glen. We tested well and we feel good about it."

Brett Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Ralphs Supermarket Taurus, is coming off the biggest highlight of his 2000 season after setting the track qualifying record for last weekend's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Bodine, who set the mark in second-round qualifying, will be looking to build on that momentum at Watkins Glen for the Global Crossing at the Glen. Bodine, a native of nearby Chemung, NY, spoke about last week's accomplishment and on returning to his home state.

BRETT BODINE --11-- Ralphs Supermarket Taurus -- SETTING THE TRACK RECORD AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY DURING THE SECOND ROUND OF QUALIFYING HAS GOT TO GIVE YOU MOMENTUM. "It does. We continue to work on this race team. At Indianapolis it was the bottom of the ninth, two outs, two strikes against us and we hit a home run. And that's what builds character in a group. This race team experienced the lowest of lows when we hit the wall in practice prior to first-round qualifying, had to work their tails off just to get it out there so we could make a lap first round. And then to just continue to work hard and put a good enough car underneath me for second-round qualifying to set a new track record. To me, that's what was accomplished this past weekend in Indianapolis. That's what we want to continue to do with this race team. When this team has the opportunity with the funding that some of these other race teams have, we're gonna be in position to take advantage of that funding, and that's what we're building the future for."

YOU'RE GOING HOME WITH THIS MOMENTUM. "I always look forward to going to Watkins Glen because it is home. Geoff and I have got a big weekend up there, we're getting inducted into the sports hall of fame in our home town, and that's gonna be really neat to experience that. It's always nice to be recognized by people from back home. And, the fact that we did perform very well at Sears Point under the second race that Mike Hillman was with us. We had an awfully fast race car at Sears Point. I'm looking forward to going to Watkins Glen because that's where my best road-course finishes come. I finished third there, and we've run awfully good there in the past. I'm expecting to go to Watkins Glen and be very competitive."

WHAT ABOUT GROWING UP THERE? "Because we were so busy with our own racing, you know, with our parents running a race track in Chemung, we didn't spend a lot time in Watkins Glen. Even though it was so close to our home, we didn't spend a lot time going up there to watch races because we were busy doing our own thing. Saturday nights we'd race our track and then when Geoff started racing around New York state I'd travel with him, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we didn't go there a lot. My first experience at Watkins Glen was in the late '60s. I remember going there to watch the Trans Am/Can Am weekend and watched Mark Donahue race the Sunoco Camaro. I think it was George Fulmer who was driving Bud Moore's Mustangs or Cougars at that time. And that left a lasting impression in my mind about Watkins Glen. I had no idea that I lived so close to such a famous race track. I didn't realize what Watkins Glen meant to the sporting car world at that time. You know, the Formula One races used to be there. It wasn't until I got to compete there that I realized how lucky I was to have lived so close to such a famous race track."

DARLINGTON HAS SUCH HISTORY WITH NASCAR, BUT WATKINS GLEN -- WITH ALL DIFFERENT SERIES -- IS REALLY AN HISTORICAL PLACE. "Watkins Glen really is. If you go back and look back all the way to the street races, and then when they did finally build the permanent circuit up on the hill, what it meant to sports car racing in America. It really brought sports car racing to America to another level, because it was a very modern facility, very fast and Formula One and all the series that had competed there. And then when Winston Cup came there it kind of brought 'em to that next level again, and I was so proud to be there and be a part of that."

IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THAT TRACK THAT YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO? "I consider Watkins Glen the super speedway of the road courses, and Sears Point the short track of road courses. Sears Point is very tight, relatively slow speeds down the straightaways because their straightaways aren't that long. Watkins Glen is just the opposite, very long straightaways, sweeping, banked corners, so it's an extremely fast road course. And I think Winston Cup racing puts on a much better show at Watkins Glen because it is that type of a race track. Drafting comes into play up the long back straightaway where you can pass and out-brake going into the inner loop. And every corner has banking to it, which Winston Cup cars tend to put a better show on a banked race track. It's just a great facility, and I'm so happy for the people of New York state that they can get a Winston Cup race in their backyard."

WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE STREAK JEFF GORDON IS ON AT ROAD COURSES? "He's dominated. I mean the guy has dominated road-course racing. They have got a tremendous package and Jeff is just a heckuva road-course racer. Everybody's gonna be going up there to try to stop his string. In the past, we've seen some wins come up. My brother Geoff won up there with some different pit strategy and Watkins Glen is the type of race track that pit strategy you can't play into because of fuel mileage and those kind of things. Just divide the race track up, pit under green, get your tires and fuel and go -- don't ever make a pit stop under the yellow. Those are some issues that we'll have to address depending on how our cars are that day."

WHAT WAS THE TRACK YOUR PARENTS OWNED BACK HOME CALLED? "Chemung Speedrome." AND YOU HAD WORKED THERE? "Yeah. It was built in 1949 and my parents (father Eli and mother Carol June) operated it until the late '70s and it's sat idle since 1980. The new owner is hoping to open it back up this year. My dad's passed away now, but it was built on my grandfather's dairy farm and then the family got out of the farming business and concentrated on racing. We're farmers by trade."

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brett Bodine , Mark Martin