Interview with Mark Martin

Photos courtesy of NASCAR

January 16, 2006

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Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is coming off a fourth-place finish in last yearís NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points race. Martin held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center on his first day of testing for next monthís Daytona 500.

IS THIS YOUR LAST DAYTONA 500? ďI hope this is the last one.Ē

WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHANCES? ďIsnít it a little bit early to be worried about all that? (laughter) I donít know. Itís awfully early to be worrying about all of that. Iíve got so many things on my mind. There is a lot of stuff going on. Iím just gonna try to keep my head down and work real hard and make my team happy, make AAA happy and make some fans happy this year and work at it.Ē

CARL CITED YOU IN HIS BANQUET SPEECH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT EXPECTATIONS FOR HIM? ďYou know me. Iím wouldnít do the expectation deal too much. I would expect great enthusiasm and incredible intensity. Thatís what I would expect and I guarantee you youíll get that. I donít want to go into great detail. Carl and I did actually get crossways with one another a couple of times last year along the way in his development and thatís OK. We both learned a little something through all that. At the time we had different philosophies on a few things and I respect that. He certainly respects me, so thatís just part of moving along. Carl has worked harder, heís paid more attention than any driver that Iíve ever had contact with. Carl Edwards is paying attention, thatís for sure. Heís asked more questions than anyone ever has of me and there were a couple of times when he didnít get praise from me. Most of the time he does, but heís a lot of fun to be around and be a part of certainly.Ē

WHEN DID YOU FINALLY ALLOW YOURSELF TO THINK ABOUT 2006? ďIím not sure Iím thinking about it yet. I was totally blindsided with my chances of winning the Daytona 500. I really havenít thought that much about it. Definitely at the banquet I still wasnít ready for that. My month of December was the busiest Iíve had in my life and a lot of that is because of all the things that werenít able to happen, that I wasnít able to do the last three months of the season based on the focus and effort that went into the chase, trying to catch up on that and get in the swing of some new sponsors. AAA, Coca-Cola, for example, were totally new to my program so that took a little additional time and what have you and here we are. Iím doing a lot of stuff right now. Iíve got a lot on my mind. I donít have a lot of control about Daytona. This is not like California. Our California cars havenít been to the wind tunnel yet. After they get done with the wind tunnel Iíll look at the numbers and start wrestling with the guys about why we werenít able to do what we hoped we would or be excited that we did more than we thought we might under the new scenarios that we have to deal with for í06. Then weíll go to Vegas and test and Iíll be as fierce as Iíve ever been in my life about trying to win the next race. But for Daytona Iím at the mercy of the engineers and the team and all those things. I donít really feel like I have a lot of input on the performance of the car, so Iím letting them do their work and staying out of it.Ē

THOUGHTS ON RUNNING SOME TRUCK AND BUSCH RACES AS WELL. ďThe truck is something that I really want to do. I was out here Friday with the 6 truck and with my team and with David Ragan. I tested the truck and I drafted and we worked really hard on getting the truck set up to really drive well for David to race in the race here, and then Iíll be in it at California. Itís something that I have a lot of passion for right now. Thatís why Iím doing that. Iíve put a lot of extra work on my plate and then it was not my intention to do Busch races, but because Roush Racing put together a package with Ameriquest to do an enormous amount of racing in the Busch Series, I was put in a position where they know I wonít say no, but I did argue down from 14 to seven races in the Busch Series. So Iím definitely not doing a full Busch Series schedule. Iím not Carl Edwards. Iím not that strong. Iíve got a couple of years on him, or some of these other guys that are really taking a full plate. Iím talking about 14 races and thatís manageable. Iíd say I can do that. Iím real excited about the truck and working with my team and working with David Ragan and getting that thing going as a kick start for 2007, where I can go do that full time and just have some big fun.Ē

HAVE YOU FOUND THAT PLACE AS FAR AS WHAT ITíS GOING TO TAKE TO GET THROUGH THIS YEAR? ďTo be real honest with you, Iíve still got some time and thank goodness because like I said when we were in New York I wasnít really ready to address it yet. Obviously, Iíve been to a Cup test already this year, a truck test already this year and now weíre at Daytona and just on the first day. When we get Daytona out of the way, because I canít help those guys that much, and we start focusing on Vegas and then looking at California. I have the ferocity to build, but to be real honest with you Iím not there yet. I have been real busy. This December was the busiest Iíve ever been and I have been real busy to this point. Iím doing some things with Matt. I got to go racing with him twice since Homestead and heís really impressed me, and itís time for me to move his equipment up and make some changes. He raced last Saturday night at New Smyrna in the sportsman division for the first time and he wound up getting the win there, so weíre moving right on through that division and into the late model division. Equipment-wise, I wasnít prepared for that so Iím trying to help my guys do those kind of things and trying to get everything in order so that when the mad dash hits of Speedweeks thereís nothing else in my life but the Cup cars. Obviously, there is a lot of things in it right now and weíll kind of make that transition as we get closer to Speedweeks with the Vegas test and everything.Ē

IS IT POSSIBLE TO JUST HAVE FUN THIS YEAR AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TEAM PERSONNEL? ďI tell you what, I had fun last year, which was really cool. It was the best year of my life professionally and personally, so I just want everybody to make sure that they know that theyíre talking to a guy that had a blast last year. It would mean an awful lot to me to have the same kind of performance on the race track this year, so therefore Iím willing to be miserable if need be in order to have that. My tendency is to go off on that misery side to try to make sure that we get that performance. Iím gonna fight that a little bit, but Iím not ready to address all that strategy just yet. Iíve got a lot of balls in the air. Jack has a strategy that says, Ďdonít worry about it. I know you. Just go have fun with it this year. The pressure is off and you might do better than you ever have.í Boy, that sounds real good to me, but we all know that Iím gonna fall over that misery edge as soon as I get close enough to it that I can jump over it. Iíll work so hard at it that weíll go back to the other side. Itís really funny. Iím really gonna make an effort this year to handle things the way I did last year with the philosophy I had, with the fans, with the media and with my team. It will be a disappointment to me if we donít have Ė I would really love the 2005 performance to be the last year of my Cup Ė so if I could do that well again in í06, it would be fantastic. If I could do better than that, obviously it would be a dream come true. It would be incredible. If we could race for that championship and win it would be the coolest thing. At the same time, realistically speaking, I know the odds that Iím up against and I canít believe that I was able to personally give the performance that I gave on the race track last year. It would be hard for me to ask more of myself at this stage of my career, but youíre not gonna get the Jack Roush philosophy recommendation from me, and that is, Ďdonít sweat it, donít strain so hard, just go do it and see if it turns out.í Doggone it, thatís a good strategy. I wish that would work for me, but I love what happened the last lap of Homestead. Itís one of the few occasions where Iíve ever gotten beat that I had fun. Yeah, it would have been cool to win, but everybody was on their feet and thatís why I race. If I could have times in 2006 and some races like that, it would really fill in that last box for me because 2006 is the last Cup box for me and Iíd like to fill that in with great times like we had in 2005.Ē

WHAT ABOUT YOUR TEAM? ďWe really didnít lose any people. We only lost one person off the 6 team, but we promoted a couple of other guys within the company and it was time for them to move up and take on crew chief responsibilities on Busch teams because of Roushís expansion with Ameriquest and all the Busch teams theyíre gonna have this year. So we have a couple of new people in there, but you have that almost every year. I do still have Pat Tryson. I still have our engineer, Mike Janow. I still have my car chief, which is very important to me. Todd Zeigler is incredible and I would have had a hard time facing 2006 without Todd, but heís back with us. And some of the other guys that are on our team Iíve worked with on my Busch car in í05, so weíve worked together before. Iím feeling good about the team. Thereís no reason why we shouldnít have as good a year as last year. Thereís no reason. I mean weíve got it all. If anything, weíve improved on things and Iíll certainly drive my heart out and these guys will have my undivided attention when it comes time to get ready for these races and to focus and to go racing. But at the same time Iím gonna try to have some fun with the media and with the fans and the people that have helped me build this great career. Iíve got some really fun things on the schedule coming up in í06 that are outside the race car itself that will involve the fans especially as well as some of the media stuff.Ē

WHAT WILL YOU MISS THE MOST AFTER YOUR FINAL LAP? ďItís not my final lap. I couldnít quit racing. Racing is my life. Itís been my life since I was 15 years old and Iím certainly not ready to give up racing, so, for me, itís not that difficult to walk away from Nextel Cup because I realize where I am in my career. If I was 26, I wouldnít walk away. Itís time for me for a lot of reasons. I went over those reasons last year and all, but Iím gonna continue to race. Itís my whole life. Climbing in that race car today and going out there, Iím just wishing that we could be drafting because thatís the real deal. Thatís what I live for. Iíll continue to race. Itís my expectation to be in the 6 truck full-time, and then do some other appearances and what have. If something were to work out that I wasnít in that truck, youíd catch me at the Saturday night short tracks across the country. I am not done racing by any means.Ē

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DRIVING AT DAYTONA? ďItís Daytona. The first time I came down here was 1981. Itís just a lot different as far as the preparation goes and we only do it four times a year. Itís just different. I can help these guys make a car that will fly at the next place, but for here there are a lot of other forces out there that I donít have control of, and so it is what it is. Itís Daytona. Itís the biggest race of the year and I need to win it. This is my last chance. Iím just gonna try to get in the front on the last lap and hog the track or something.Ē

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