Watkins Glen, NY (August 7, 2000) -- Mark Martin has always been strong in NASCAR Winston Cup Series road course events, but he's been especially fierce at Watkins Glen International where it seems more like a drive around his old...
Watkins Glen, NY (August 7, 2000) -- Mark Martin has always been
strong in NASCAR Winston Cup Series road course events, but he's been
especially fierce at Watkins Glen International where it seems more like a
drive around his old neighborhood rather than a grueling competition.
It was big news last year when he didn't finish among the top five in
the Global Crossing at The Glen in his No. 6 Valvoline Ford, because for
10 consecutive years, from 1989 to 1998, Martin invariably was challenging
for the lead or on top when the race ended.
It's been four years since Martin's last Global Crossing @ The Glen
victory. He's hoping this year to put the skids on Jeff Gordon's record
six straight road-racing winning streak and start one of his own. Gordon
comes to Watkins Glen boasting three straight wins in the Global Crossing
The Glen. The torch was passed in 1998 when Martin and Gordon staged an amazing two-car battle for the trophy. Gordon won that round. "Jeff was a smart driver,'' said Martin after that race. "He gave us a driving lesson. He was just awesome. Jeff's just too strong. I had hopes of staying out there in front of him, but I couldn't. I didn't have the race car that I needed to win the race, but I still tried real hard. We're just doing our best, racing hard every week. I'm giving it all I have." During the peak of Martin's road-racing performance, Martin captured three consecutive Global Crossing at The Glen titles from 1993-95, all from the pole position. With that kind of record, you have to figure Martin was schooled in road racing as a youngster or went to some fancy-pants, road-racing program. In reality, the Arkansas native was taught the basics of road racing on the backroads around his home when he was growing up. To Martin, it's not road racing, it's "just plain driving," as he calls it. "It's just like when I grew up in Arkansas and I drove the car,'' said Martin, who has accumulated four road-racing victories on the Winston Cup circuit. "The roads were gravel roads, and they were hilly and curvy, and had ditches on the side. You just drove as fast as you could go and stay out of the ditch.'' As a boy, Martin's father, Julian, would take his son to car accident sites and reconstruct the incident as a lesson for his boy. "He would take me out there and say, 'He dropped his front wheel off the pavement here and hooked his tire there,' stuff like that," said Martin. "I learned a lot of lessons about driving from my father." He needed years of oval race schooling to figure out how to go around and around on a circle track, but road racing came naturally. "Oval racing is not the same as driving down a country road, because you don't really shift and you go around in a circle and go through the same turns over and over again without hills and different banking," the Florida resident said. "To me, there's nothing more natural, no more natural driving, than just getting in a car and going on a road course. That is how almost everybody learned how to drive a car on the road - probably a road with curves and with some hills, and you had to shift some gears and then started driving faster. The next thing you know, you're road racing." Martin likes his chances in this year's Global Crossing @ The Glen, a 90-lap romp through the woods over Watkins Glen's 2.45-mile course. Whether it's road racing or "just plain driving" Martin would like to bring his Roush Racing Ford back to Victory Circle at this scenic facility. "Everywhere we go is another chance to score another victory,'' Martin said. "We have a great race team, and the guys are doing a really nice job. They're pumped up, and each race is another opportunity. I don't view Watkins Glen as a better opportunity than anywhere else at this point. I expect to be competitive here." Tickets for this weekend's Global Crossing @ The Glen NASCAR Winston Cup Series event are still available. For ticket, reserved camping, or additional information, contact the Watkins Glen ticket office at 607-535-2481 or visit the website at www.theglen.com .