Transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Miracle-Gro Ford) and Erik Darnell (No. 99 Woolrich Ford). Martin won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway last ...
Transcript from today's teleconference with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Miracle-Gro Ford) and Erik Darnell (No. 99 Woolrich Ford).
Martin won the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway last weekend while teammate Darnell (Roush Racing's Driver X) finished in sixth-place.
Martin will compete in seven NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races in 2006, including this weekend's race in California -- the Racetickets.com 200. Darnell is one of 16 rookies in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competing for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in 2006.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to action this Friday, Feb. 24 at California Speedway for the Racetickets.com 200. The race is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET.
(Question) Mark, you won the race at Daytona in only your fourth start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In four starts, you have two wins and one pole. Can you discuss the competition in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series?
MARK MARTIN: It's great. I was real fortunate to drive a great truck. Mike Beam (crew chief) and the Scotts team had really done their homework over the winter, and I had a really nice superspeedway truck. It made my job a little bit easier. It's pretty tough competition -- the Series has a lot of great drivers and great teams. I'm not getting used to it anytime soon. I know we've got our work cut out for us for this race this weekend.
(Question) Erik, you won the Driver X competition for Roush Racing. You had a great finish in your first outing at Daytona with a sixth-place finish. How do you feel about your start to the season so far?
ERIK DARNELL: Coming into the Series as a rookie, I don't think we could ask for any better way to start the year. I know I have a great team behind me -- Roush Racing. And I have Mark Martin as a teammate. I can go and ask him anything. It's made it a lot easier for me. I think the team was capable of doing it, it was just going to be up to me to come in there and run well. I couldn't have asked for a better way to start the year.
(Question) Mark, you have four wins at California Speedway -- two IROC wins (1997, 1998), one NEXTEL Cup win (1998) and one Busch Series race (2005). With your start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race this weekend at California, you could become the first driver to sweep all NASCAR events at California Speedway. Are you looking forward to this weekend's race?
MARTIN: Well, I am. I think it's going to be a blast. It's so much fun to race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In my opinion, it's the best racing in NASCAR. I know that I have my work cut out for me. I haven't raced the trucks that much. I'm still learning about those things, so it's going to be fun. It's a challenge, and I look forward to it.
(Question) Mark, when I saw you climb out of the truck after the win at Daytona, I haven't seen a smile that big on your face in a long time. Did I see that right?
MARTIN: I was really happy. It was a blast. It's great to win. Most of those guys on the Scotts team have not had wins before, have not been to victory lane in a NASCAR race. Of course, (Mike) Beam (crew chief) has, but I don't think hardly any of the other guys had. It's always just a blast when you can do that. They were so excited. They worked for it and they deserve it.
(Question) If you stay true to the way you run in the NASCAR Busch Series and I was a betting man, I would have to bet you can back your win up at California this weekend.
MARTIN: I think you underestimate the competition in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. I appreciate your confidence. I'm confident we'll do a good job. But tough competition. I can't be so sure of that. I know we'll do a good job, but I'm not sure. There's some tough characters out there with some really fast trucks.
(Question): Erik, what was the Driver X competition like -- especially watching it at home after the fact?
DARNELL: It was kind of weird. Going through the whole process was more nerve racking than actually being out there on track itself. The on-track activities weren't so bad when we were out there, but doing the media week, doing the victory lane celebration in front of all the cameras was something I had never been used to before. It was definitely pretty tough. I was fortunate enough to win the thing and get on the track in Daytona. Once I got out there on the track, that was the easy part -- just to go out there and drive. I'm looking forward to try and continue the start we have had to our season next week.
(Question) If I would have told you before the start of the race at Daytona, that you would finish sixth, what would you have said to me?
DARNELL: I would have told you that the team was capable of it, but that it was going to be up to me and I probably wouldn't have believed you. We were just looking to get out of there with a finish, with the truck in one piece. To come out of there the way we did was incredible.
(Question) Mark, your Nextel Cup team is No. 1 priority in 2006, but Mike Beam has said they are building this team to run for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship in 2007. How involved are you in building this team for next season?
MARTIN: I don't' know. I would say that I'm engaged more than a lot, but not as much as some. (Laugh) I don't know how to gauge that against other people. I am engaged as much as possible considering that I'm an absentee employee. I talk to Mike Beam a lot. The whole reason that I'm running seven races this year is to help develop our team and refine our trucks and try to give Erik Darnell and our other rookies who come along and drive these trucks a better opportunity to show what they can do by giving them better equipment. We didn't really give Todd Kluever a fair shot last year to show what he could do because our equipment was off a little bit.
(Question) Mark, Erik comes from a very similar racing background as you. What type of advice have you given him?
MARTIN: Erik's been on the fast track. I think the 'Driver X' program was pretty intense. I don't know if I could have prepared him for that or not. I'm there for Erik. Anything he needs, I'm there for him.
(Question) Erik, you had a phenomenal start to the season. Does that readjust your goals for 2006 now that you are off to such a strong start?
DARNELL: Not a whole lot. I knew coming into this thing that we had a great team behind me, that we had the equipment in place and the personnel in place to go out there and run well. It was just going to be up to me to go out and do it. To be honest with you, I was extremely pleased to come out of Daytona with the finish we did. I didn't know if we would be able to do it or not. Our main goals at the start of the year were to go out and win rookie of the year honors, win a race or two and finish top-five in points. I definitely think that is realistic.
(Question) Erik, which has more pressure: the final days of the 'Driver X' competition or the final 10 laps of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Daytona.
DARNELL: Both of those were pretty tough. The final day of the 'Driver X' thing wasn't too bad , but out there at Daytona, drafting with all those veterans -- something I've never done before -- it was a learning experience for me. It was a lot of fun though.
(Question) Mark, does the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Daytona give you more motivation for the 2006 season?
MARTIN: No, I don't think so. Motivation is not something that I ever had to look for. I am intensely competitive and real fortunate to be able to work with great teams. I'm pretty lucky there. It was really nice to win the truck race. It was an honor to drive such a great truck. It's the first time that Ford has won there -- well, they won a couple of years ago (with Rick Crawford) It's been a while. With manufacturers going at it like they do, it was really a good thing for Ford and for all of us, and especially for our team.
(Question) Mark, what does your experience at California in the NEXTEL and Busch Series carry to NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race?
MARTIN: I'm short on experience with the trucks themselves. We have very limited practice. It's a great challenge for me. I don't know really what the truck wants. We'll have to try to learn that in about 20 laps of practice and then do our best in the race. We have some challenges in front of us just not having experience with the truck.
(Question) Mark, do you think you are on the same level as Erik is coming to California in truck?
MARTIN: I would hope that my experience would stand for something. He definitely has less experience with the truck than I do. He's going to have a very steep learning curve, but Erik's young and incredibly talented. He'll make up for a lot of that through his talent.
(Question) Erik, what does it mean for you to finally come to a track where it's all about horsepower and handling as opposed to the draft?
MARTIN: Thank goodness.
DARNELL: It's something that I'm definitely looking forward to. To be able to go out there and be able to drive the track instead of be at the mercy of the draft and not being able to get away from anybody. It's something I'm really looking forward to. I want to get out there and show what I can do in these trucks.
(Question) Mark, I know you don't like Daytona much. So, for you, this is really the start of the Cup season this week? Real racing?
MARTIN: What is it, 32 races are non-restrictor plate races?
(Question) Erik, how do you feel about your first race at California this weekend?
DARNELL: This will be my first race at California. I was lucky enough to get to run Michigan in the ARCA race last year. From what I've seen, California is similar to Michigan and I really enjoyed running there. I'm definitely looking forward to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck race this weekend.