Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Ford F-150, returned to the Craftsman Truck Series after a one-race hiatus and grabbed his third pole of the season in qualifying for tomorrow's John Deere. Martin, who last competed in the series at New Hampshire...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Ford F-150, returned to the Craftsman Truck Series after a one-race hiatus and grabbed his third pole of the season in qualifying for tomorrow's John Deere. Martin, who last competed in the series at New Hampshire in September, has nine starts this season with four victories, including a win from the pole at Bristol. Martin, who now has three career truck series poles and five victories, captured the pole in his 13th career truck series start with a time of 52.523 seconds and an average speed of 182.320 mph. He is joined David Ragan, his Roush Racing teammate, on the front row for tomorrow's inaugural truck series race at the 2.66-mile speedway (52.682 seconds, 181.770 mph).
MARK MARTIN -6-Scotts Ford F-150 (Qualified 1st)
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN. "We knew that our Scotts F-150 was fast yesterday. That's our truck from Daytona and the guys have rubbed on it a little bit more. It was really good yesterday so I expected it to be pretty fast today, too. I think the race is going to be really interesting. I think it will be a preview of what's coming for the Cup race. Actually, the practice was fun. Those things are just a lot of fun. They're more like driving the cars back before the days of restrictor plates, 25 years ago. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
YOU MADE YOUR ANNOUNCEMENT FOR NEXT YEAR EARLIER TODAY AND HERE YOU ARE BACK IN THE MEDIA CENTER DISCUSSING YOUR POLE-WINNING RUN IN A ROUSH TRUCK. TALK ABOUT YOUR DAY. "It is a big day, that's for sure. Well, I love driving that 6 truck, I can tell you that. I've said that all year and I still do. That was one of the things that made the decision difficult because I expected that I probably wouldn't be able to do that again next year. But, what the heck, it's still on the top of my list. We'll worry about that later. We've got a championship to chase and we'll worry about truck racing later."
WHAT ARE YOUR OPINIONS ON THE NEW RACING SURFACE? "The things that I've seen so far, it's incredibly smooth. The grip is just unbelievable. It seems to be fun. It seems to be, while practice has been pretty calm, it seems to be really good, maybe better than it was. I just hope it doesn't encourage us to get wilder than before. So far it feels more comfortable than the old surface, to run all over and four wide and all of that stuff. The one thing that does concern me is it is very easy to hit the apron. It's hard to see the apron for some reason. I've talked to some other guys that said the same thing - when you touch the apron your car darts to the right. If we're doing a four-wide thing, this could create a situation that we wouldn't want to see. I think right now out there, we're so comfortable that the only issue that we have is keeping up with where everyone is. Two-by-two is nothing keep up with, but the four-by-four thing starts getting crazy and it starts getting really difficult with all of the movement going on out there to keep up with where everyone's at and making sure that you don't make a move that causes someone to get in someone else or something. So far, the surface for me gets real high marks. It's smooth and it's fun."
TALK ABOUT THE ISSUE WITH THE APRON. "There's a line, a yellow line and you tend to always push the envelope. Running the bottom, you get right down there on it, and I think that the cars drive like a go-kart so much more on this surface. You just barely have to turn the steering wheel and the car really goes. I think we're oversteering our cars some; I know I have been. It's not that you don't really see it, it's just somehow or another it's easy to get on it and, boy, it doesn't like it. It really pulls the front end down when you touch it with that left front."
YOU JUST SAID YOU'RE HAVING FUN AT TALLADEGA SUPERSPEEDWAY. "When they drag me in on the hook I'll have something different to tell you (laughs). Yeah, you're right. There's no telling what you're liable to hear come out of my mouth this weekend."
WILL YOU BE BACK HERE NEXT YEAR? "I've been working on my tentative schedule, and Talladega is not on it. Who knows? I might change my mind. The cool thing is that it is up to me. Heck, you heard some words like fun come out of my mouth more than once. If it's fun and I have a blast on Sunday, I'll add it to the list. I have cousins that come down here and visit me every time, and we get to BBQ together and everything, and they're like, 'What are we going to do next year?' Maybe I'll just have to come back and have another BBQ and hang out. As of right now, I was looking at letting Regan get some restrictor-plate experience here and looking at doing the 500, for sure, and probably the 400 at Daytona as well and letting Regan get some restrictor-plate time. I'm going to try to balance it up where he gets a good blend of things, and we really work hard to get him prepared for a full schedule in '08."
DID THE TRACK RETAIN ANY OF ITS OLD CHARACTERISTICS? "This race track really drives a lot different. It's huge, and that's the same as it was, but to drive around it, it's quite different. I'll say again, it's been pretty fun. The packs have gotten pretty big and as long as you know where everyone is, and as long as we work real hard to keep up with all that, I think that we can have an awesome race. We may have better racing here than we have had in the past, if that's possible. We've had some great racing, but so far it seems to be working out better than I expected. It can encourage us to get wild, yes. And, it can encourage us to have some problems, but it won't be a loss of control problem until we actually run into one another or force somebody into somebody else. That's something that we're all going to have to use a lot of self control with."
THERE DOESN'T SEEM TO BE A LOT OF CONCERN WITH THE SPEEDS BEING TOO EXCESSIVE. WOULD YOU BE SURPRISED TO SEE A PLATE CHANGE? "This weekend? I would. Gosh, I've called it wrong on NASCAR a lot, especially in the later years. It's harder for me to predict. Either I'm getting dumber or they're getting smarter, one or the other. But, yeah, I think everybody is pretty comfortable with what we've got going on. We need to keep these cars going straight. If we keep these cars going straight, it's going to be great for everyone. You know what, there will be more of us at the finish to make it even more exciting if we can keep them all straight."
WITH THE AERODYNAMIC PACKAGE OF THE TRUCK BEING CLOSER TO THAT OF THE CAR OF TOMORROW, DO YOU EXPECT MORE CUP DRIVERS TO RUN TRUCK RACES? "It's very possible that the truck could be more like the Car of Tomorrow than the Busch cars. Yeah, that's a reasonable thought right there. I haven't driven the Car of Tomorrow yet. It is fun to race those trucks, I'm telling you that. It's a lot of fun, and right now, in my opinion, it's the best racing in NASCAR and I love it. It's something that if I was going to add to my schedule next year, that's first on my list because I still have a passion for that series."
WAS CUP RACING EVER AS MUCH FUN AS YOU'RE HAVING IN THE TRUCK SERIES? "Well, that's all relative. For me, when I first started running good, let's put it that way, in Cup racing it was awfully fun and it still is fun when you run good. The vehicles are different, they're more equal and it's just more of a challenge to do passes and make passes and get your car better than the competition's. There is more in the truck, as of today, to make your truck handle better than someone else's than there is in the incredibly refined Cup garage. But, yeah, Cup racing is fun. You go ask Reed Sorenson or Carl Edwards or one of these guys that haven't done it very long. They're having a blast every day that they have fenders left on them."
IT'S BEEN SAID OF TALLADEGA THAT THIS TRACK GIVES YOU ENOUGH ROPE TO HANG YOURSELF. WITH THE SMOOTH SURFACE, IS THERE EVEN MORE ROPE NOW? "I don't want to get that started right away. My prediction was: absolutely, yes. After running on it, I'm not so sure I was right about that. I'm tentatively giving this place high marks and saying that we can have great racing, maybe better than what we've had in the past. I'm seeing the opportunity to make more daring moves than ever before, which may lure us into mayhem, but so far, the practices have been calmer than the practices have in the past almost here. I have great hope that this is going to be fantastic. I think we'll learn more tomorrow, and I think, boy, you better take your heart pills because it's going to be exciting from what I saw with those trucks out there in practice."
-credit: ford racing