NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona
January 12, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Good afternoon. On behalf of the France family and NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway, I want to welcome you to 2012 Preseason Thunder here at the world center of racing, Daytona International Speedway. We've got a busy three days for you. Appreciate everybody's attendance. I know there's a lot of choices and a lot of other things you could be doing, but being here at Daytona certainly means a lot to us, and we're going to take care of you.
Without further ado, I'm going to call on our first driver that's going to do some media for us, and that's Mark Martin. He's driving the No.55 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota. Mark, I just mentioned to you, you look younger than I've ever seen. You look rejuvenated. We've got 45 days until we run the 54th running of the Daytona 500. I know you've sniffed it, you've smelled it, you've come very, very close to winning this Harley J. Earl Trophy. What would that mean to you in your racing career to win here at Daytona?
MARK MARTIN: Not sure what it would mean. You've got to check with my boss, Michael Waltrip. You know, when I think about that, I have different thoughts. One of the thoughts is if it happened this year, it might be a life changer for me, and then it might not, I don't know. Certainly it would be an incredible experience. I'm just proud to have an opportunity to be in it again or hopefully compete in it and have a great team behind me like the Aaron's Dream Machine.
Q. Can you just talk about what it's been like to test with these guys? You were at New Smyrna the last couple days, as well.
MARK MARTIN: Well, we really had a ball at New Smyrna. I felt like the car was really fast and drove really good. We got acquainted with each other, worked out a couple little issues, you know, that needed‑‑ we needed to go to the racetrack to see and just radio issues and some things like that. It was my first day in with the EFI on Tuesday, so sorted through some things like that.
Car was really fast. It's going to be fun. This is going to be so much fun in so many ways. I love my race team, the guys, and I feel really, really comfortable when I walk into MWR. I feel very, very comfortable there. They've made me feel very comfortable.
I'm excited to be a part of the organization. There are a lot of excited people there. You know, I look forward to it.
Q. How is the fuel injection different from a driving standpoint?
MARK MARTIN: You know, it's more the way you start the car and the way it performs in the garage and just leaving‑‑ just taking off. On the racetrack, I didn't hardly notice any difference at all, you know, up to speed.
But it's just a little different. They start a little different. You don't pat the gas and squirt gas in. So that's a little different. But you know, from a driving standpoint, it's going to be very little. But I really do feel like that there's a crack in the floodgates. I think there's a huge amount of electronics and adjustments and so much that can be done by the guys on the computer, you know, instead of all those years that I spent with Jack Roush with the carburetor apart up in the trailer. There's the potential for lots of things, lots of things, maybe advantages, maybe problems, I don't know. There's a lot of things we're going to find out as we go forward.
Q. (No microphone.)
MARK MARTIN: I think it will be‑‑ there's more adjustment‑‑ not really, no. I think fuel mileage racing is going to be very much the same as it was. You still could lean the jets or use a smaller carburetor or many other things. You could take fuel away from the thing at slow speeds, carburetor, and you could do all those things to this and more.
So there is an opportunity for teams, really smart people with laptop computers‑‑ I think there's an opportunity for someone to gain an edge here coming out of the gate when it's new. There will be less opportunity to make that kind of progress when everybody gets‑‑ squeezes the last little bit out of it. But right now it's wide open, and we're learning something nearly every time out on the racetrack.
We had Toyota folks there with us at New Smyrna, and that was a good thing. We were able to actually do some things and improve the way the thing performed, started, ran on pit road and all those kinds of things as we went forward. The learning curve is going to be fairly steep because there's so many adjustments.
Q. This is not the first year that you've run a limited schedule, not run the full season. Does it affect in any way at all your outlook going into the year, and also, do you feel better knowing that you're not going to be running all 36? Is that kind of like a little break for you?
MARK MARTIN: Do you see this big old smile on my face? Yeah, buddy, I'm tell you, I'm thrilled. I'm back to the schedule that I ran in '07 and '08, and I'm really, really‑‑ I've had a great off‑season, had the time of my life with Hendrick Motorsports and made friends for life there. But this is a new challenge from an organization standpoint, a lot of new faces, and then a lot of guys I've worked with before. I couldn't believe it when I walked through the shop the first time. You can't believe how many people I've worked with before that are at MWR now.
And obviously I was in a position where I got to choose the races and how many. So it's just exactly where I want to be in life right now. I'm really excited, thrilled to have a company like Aaron's behind us, huge supporter of NASCAR racing, and I think it's going to be fun, the things that we're going to do, Michael and I are going to do. I'm expecting to do a lot of smiling this year.
Q. Last year when you announced this deal, one of the things you said attracted you to it was the ability to have input into the direction of the team. I was just curious how that's been going for you in the off‑season and your thoughts on the rule changes to try and break up the two‑car draft.
MARK MARTIN: You know, we're just getting our feet under us. I never even went to the shop, MWR shop, until after Homestead. I felt like that was the right thing to do. I was still part of Hendrick Motorsports and was in there with them digging as hard as I could.
We had the holiday, after Homestead went up there and started sort of getting integrated and all, and then we had the holidays, and now we're testing. So shooting a lot of commercials and doing a lot of things like that. I haven't had an opportunity to get really in deep. I look forward to it. I love working with the people there, Bobby Kennedy and Scott Miller and the crew chiefs. I spent some time with all the crew chiefs there, and I think we've got something really strong there, and I look forward to working on it and trying to build it stronger.
Rules changes, I don't know. We're single car. Who knows. You're going to have to ask me later after we do some drafting. Who knows. It's hard to break a‑‑ when drivers find out a way to go ten miles an hour faster it's hard to get them to stop it. That's all I've got to say.
Q. As a mentor, you've talked about life changing, you've actually changed a few lives here in your mentoring over the years. When you finally do get out of the seat, do you think about opening up a racing school or something where you can extend your legacy?
MARK MARTIN: That sounds like a big job. I would rather just kind of keep it closer like one‑on‑one. Yes and no. To answer your question, not so much a school or anything, but I love the sport and I love helping young, deserving people. It really makes me feel good. I certainly hope to be able to use my experience to help others going forward.
Q. You've driven with several different manufacturers. Can you tell us the difference between the cars from a driver's point of view?
MARK MARTIN: Well, today the way the cars are and the way the engines are, there's less difference between them than there was back in the day, and back in the day I only drove one manufacturer for 23 years. So today there's much less difference between all of them, and it's more what you do with what you have than it is what manufacturer it is. It's more what you do with the parts and pieces that you get your hands on.
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