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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Kasey Kahne
Mark Martin
September 7, 2004


THE MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series is at Richmond on Saturday night, the 26th race of the season, and the one that will determine those 10 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. TNT will carry the Chevy Rock'n Roll 400 live beginning at 7 p.m. eastern time. The close points battle between Martin Truex, Jr. and Kyle Busch in the NASCAR Busch Series will continue Friday night also at Richmond. The Emerson 250 will be live on TNT beginning at 8 p.m. eastern. And the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series completes the Richmond triple-header with the Kroger 200 Thursday night. SPEED Channel will carry that race live beginning at 8:30 p.m. eastern time. The NEXTEL Leader Bonus is at $60,000 for Richmond and will go to the race winner if he is also the points leader at the end of that event. And as a reminder there is no NEXTEL wake-up call scheduled for Richmond. Our guests today are right in the thick of the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup with run race to go. Kasey Kahne and Mark Martin will join us. Kasey will be on first today and Mark will join us in a few minutes. Kasey, of course, is the driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge and he moved up two spots from 11th to 9th in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings with his exciting second place finish Sunday to Elliott Sadler at California. In addition to moving into the Top 10 for the first time since Martinsville when he was also 9th, Kasey pulled to within 15 points of the 400-point cutoff margin. Remember, the Top 10 drivers in the standings and any others within 400 points of the leader following Richmond will be involved in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Kasey has four Top 5 finishes in his last six races, including Sunday's runner-up finish, and he can use that momentum to improve on his 28th place finish at Richmond in the spring. Kasey, welcome and congratulations on your California finish. Thanks for joining us today.

KASEY KAHNE: Thanks for having me. It was a good finish in California. Got us back in the points. We're looking forward to Richmond this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: I'll bet you are. You are back in the Top 10 for the first time since Martinsville, as we said. That's a pretty important place to be obviously heading into the 26th race. But perhaps more important, you're only 15 points shy of that 400-point cutoff regardless of your points standings. Is the pressure still pretty thick for you guys right now?

KASEY KAHNE: It really is. Anything can happen at Richmond. It's going to be an exciting race. You know, at the same point there could be a lot of guys get in if, say, a problem was to happen with the 48. I think it's going to be an exciting race, for sure. Really hard to say what all's going to happen there, but it should be exciting.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions from the media for Kasey Kahne.

Q. Jimmie Johnson said to us the one guy that he's got his eye on, if he makes it into the Top 10, which you have now, would be Kasey Kahne because, number one, he's running good, and number two, the tracks in that final 10 really work into Evernham Motorsports favor. Your thoughts on what he said.

KASEY KAHNE: I'm definitely looking forward to the final 10 races, whether we're in the Top 10 or not. I think, you know, obviously we're going to do everything we can to be in that Top 10. But when it comes down to it, I think there's six or seven races in there that we have a great shot at running up front at, great shot at qualifying good for and racing well at. Hopefully we can run better than we did the first time we went to those tracks. I think Evernham Motorsports should be really strong at those races.

Q. You're the only rookie that's in the Top 10 as we speak. Is that a special honor for you?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it's a real special honor. I wish Richmond was over and could know we were going to finish in the Top 10 in points this year. I mean, that's a great accomplishment for our team, it's a great accomplishment for me. You know, one of our main goals this season was to get the Rookie-of-the-Year and we're working real hard to get that. Right now we're looking good on that, but we got to keep working harder to do that. If we can get in that Top 10, it would be great.

Q. Is this a nervous time for you?

KASEY KAHNE: The last month and a half has been really. Ever since Chicago, ever since we lost a bunch of points at Chicago, I've really tried to figure out how to finish these races and how to finish them up front, do whatever it takes to have good races and not crash a car, not lose points because we fell out towards the end of the race. It's been nice to have been able to do that. We have one more race to do it and we'll get in that Top 10.

Q. It's been 'you're in, you're out' the last few weeks. I think that probably most people who have watched all year probably say you're one of the Top 10 drivers. It sort of seems like it's almost a week-to-week thing. You could be on the outside looking in. Some of these guys are going to be on the outside looking in that maybe deserve it. Do you think 10 is the right number? Do you think maybe NASCAR should look at it and maybe increase that to possibly 15?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I mean, it could end up being 15 with the 400 deal. I mean, it's been really, really kind of nerve-wracking and different things lately. You've got Jamie McMurray has been real fast, Mark Martin, Dale Jarrett, Ryan Newman, Jeremy Mayfield, all these guys have been really good in these last seven or eight races. It's coming down to the final race, which we knew it was going to. I mean, if it was 15, I think that would be a little bit better at this point in time, but at the same time 10 is what they did for this year. The whole deal is structured so much different this year than in the past, you know, it's going to be interesting to see how this whole deal works out, see if they want to change something for next year.

THE MODERATOR: Have your recent starts and finishes given you a little bit more confidence heading into Richmond? You've had some great starts the last couple and obviously some super finishes over the last three or four races. How is your mindset right now following those starts and finishes lately heading into this most specific race?

KASEY KAHNE: Oh, it's pretty good. You know, we've been qualifying good. We've been racing good. Louden, New Hampshire, we did some testing at Louden, our short track program. That was our weakest program throughout this year, was the short tracks. Going back to Richmond, first time we were there, we didn't race good at all. I crashed in qualifying, we had to pull it back and never got it right. I've learned a lot about the brakes, about these cars on the short tracks. I've definitely got some momentum going into Richmond and look forward to being at that racetrack.

Q. Looking to the 10, have you guys used up a lot of tests to make your 10 and do you have any left if you make the final 10?

KASEY KAHNE: We've used up a lot of them. We started out the season doing a lot of testing so we could run good early in the year, kind of get everybody excited, try to build some momentum for the season with having a rookie driver. We used up all of them except one. We have one two-day test left. We're not sure where we're going to choose that yet. We're looking at the tracks we're going to. We're going to decide down the road. But we have one left right now.

Q. Is this perhaps your most nerve-wracking race of your Cup career so far or was it the first one?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think the one I was pretty nervous getting ready to start on the pole was my first race. That was pretty nervous. But going into it, you know, a week ahead of time, thinking of the race, what needs to be done this weekend, I think this is probably one of the races that's definitely, you know, I'm thinking a lot about, our team's thinking about. We just need to keep doing what we've been doing and have a flawless weekend.

Q. Does having a good chance to be in the chase for the championship energize your team?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think it energizes them. I've been at the shop all day. Everybody here, the guys building the bodies, painting the cars, to the guys building the cars, there's just so many people that work here, every one of them has been excited that I've seen. I think everybody is excited. We're looking forward to going into it this weekend. You know, hopefully we'll have a good run, get it over with, going on to those next 10.

Q. The many runner-up finishes this year, is it frustrating being that close to winning that many times?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it definitely is at times. This weekend it was somewhat frustrating at the end just because I thought we were better than the 38. You know, if we would have lost to the 6, I could have understood it, because he was really good all day. But, you know, the 38 made the right adjustments at the end of the race and they were the car to beat. You know, going into that, I felt we could pass him and would have to battle the 6. It ended up not like that, so that was a little frustrating. You know, Texas was the most frustrating of all, finishing second there after dominating the whole race.

Q. Has your success surprised you at all? You seem to be taking it in stride.

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it's definitely surprised me at times. But at the same time now, at this time of the season, I mean, we've basically been together for, you know, three-quarters of a year. We're kind of out of that rookie stage. We're more of a team that's been together for a while. All the guys are getting along. I think it's time that we run good every weekend and we can, and not as much of a surprise when we do run good.

Q. Your thoughts on Tyler Walker in the 38 Busch car next year.

KASEY KAHNE: I think he's going to be really good. I've worked with him some already. We've been friends for a long time. He's driving my Silver Crown cars. He's won the last two weekends in those cars. We're going to test Kansas next week together. We're going to go back and forth in the cars, try to figure things out together. I think he'll be real good for that whole great clips team. I'll be able to join him at times, too.

THE MODERATOR: Your teammate Jeremy Mayfield is also fighting for a spot in the chase not NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. You guys have both talked extensively about how well you do get along obviously on and off the track, how you've helped each other along the way this year. Now that it's down to that final race to move into the chase, how does that change, if at all?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I don't think it will change. You know, we've been good teammates all year. I really like Jeremy and his whole team. We've all got along. I hang out with him team a lot, too. You know, hopefully both teams get in and we're able to run up front on Saturday night and get both cars in the chase. But definitely it's been fun with Jeremy, you know, learning some things from him and working well between the 9 and the 19, both teams together.

THE MODERATOR: We'll let both of those teams, the 9 specifically, get itself ready for Richmond on Saturday night. We appreciate you taking the time to join us today. Best of luck to you guys on Saturday night. Thank you.

KASEY KAHNE: Thanks a lot.

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by Mark Martin. Good morning, Mark, how are you?

MARK MARTIN: I'm good.

THE MODERATOR: Wanted to do a brief introduction for you for our media members here. Obviously, Mark is the driver of the No. 6 Viagra Ford. (Inaudible) that pushed him into the coveted No. 10 spot in the Chase for NASCAR NEXTEL Cup heading into this cut off race at Richmond. He's just 24 points from the 400-point cut off and comes to Richmond with four Top 3 finishes in his last six races. He's got one career win at Richmond in the 1990 spring race and also has three career poles there, the last coming in the 2001 spring race. And he finished seventh after starting 12th there this spring of. Mark, again, thanks for joining us today and congratulations to you at California, breaking into that Top 10. Let me ask you one thing, how did your family and your property fare during Hurricane Frances?

MARK MARTIN: Well, my family went with me to California because of the hurricane. They hadn't planned on going. The property held up pretty good. My office got damage, water damage, and we had some problems there. Horrendous mess around there. You know, basically pretty much that was it, water damage at my hangar and office, big mess there. I'm in Batesville, Arkansas, at the Ford dealership, Mark Martin Ford here. The weather conditions really aren't that good down there even at this time. I'm not too anxious to fly down there. I'm supposed to be testing tonight at Charlotte for Goodyear, testing again tomorrow, but that doesn't look very good either. I'm kind of hanging out here at the Ford dealership and just kind of waiting to see, you know, what happens.

THE MODERATOR: A little nasty down here, but everybody is fine. Hopefully it will miss Charlotte and miss Richmond this weekend. Let's talk a little bit about your racing. Back on the track. You pushed your way into the Top 10 after your finish at California. That's for the first time this season. Talk about really being in the right place at the right time, I guess. You've come all the way back from your 43rd place finish at Daytona to find yourself now on the doorstep for a place in the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup. Can you talk about your long trip to get to this point.

MARK MARTIN: Well, every time that we got close, we had another mechanical failure, which we've had, you know, just a tremendous amount of this year. You know, we were well on our way several times and then would get our legs knocked out from under us. We have had tremendous performance this year from the Viagra team. The cars have been really fast. We had our share of mechanical misfortunes. But the car has been a Top 5 car, and this is a Top 5 team every week for the past 10 or 12 weeks. This is a team that deserves to be comfortably in that thing. Maybe we'll get lucky and not have any trouble Saturday night. If so, this is a team that can contend for the Cup, I believe. I really do. If we don't make it, you know, we've given it our best shot. I'm so thankful and feel so privileged to be a part of this team and to be able to drive these cars.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions from our media members for Mark Martin.

Q. Of all the seasons you've had in Winston Cup, when you look at how this team has come back and come back, come back, the kind of just mechanical nightmares you guys have had over the course of the year, it just seems to make you guys stronger and people say if you stay in the Top 10 that you will be the guy to beat. Can you just talk about I guess Pat Tryson being the glue that's held this deal together through all the adversity that this team has faced this year.

MARK MARTIN: Amazing. I mean, I just don't know -- you know, I don't know what else to say. Pat has been our leader. He's managed to really pull this team together. This team is made up of terrific people with a fantastic engineer in (inaudible) Brown, who is very loyal to me and to the 6 car. Todd Ziegler is our car chief. You just couldn't find, you know, more loyal people and more capable people than those guys. Each and every one on this race team right now is, you know, loyal to their very core. Their heart is really in this thing. I feel it. I feel the love, you know, from these guys, and they feel it back. It's a real special time in my life. It's a very family feeling situation that we're in right now. Feels like family with the 6 car team.

Q. You spoke with the passion that it seems like you've been speaking with the last several weeks anyway. How badly do you want this this year? I don't know if it's any more than in any past years, but how badly do you want to get in there and finally maybe go for your first Cup championship?

MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, I'm not sure that I can give you, you know, a great description of how badly I want it. But I will say that this has been -- this has been more pressure than I've ever felt. 2004 has been the most pressure I've ever felt in my career. There are some reasons to that that we won't go into. And this has been as difficult as anything I've ever done in my career, which is to try to overcome how much we spotted the competition. I'd have to say this has been one of the most difficult times in my career. But usually a lot of times those are the ones that turn around and give you the most rewarding results. So we're just going to stand by and see what happens here over the next few months.

Q. A lot of the guys necessarily haven't been around as long as you have. In terms of the pressure of just this one race, coming down to it, you've been in a lot of races, do you feel the pressure?

MARK MARTIN: Absolutely not. That was like, you know, a needle in a haystack compared to the pressure that has been on me this year to elevate the performance of the team. The performance is there. There is no pressure. There's no pressure on this race. The performance is there. I have a great car. Can't help it if we have a mechanical failure or if we get in a wreck. Those are things that I can't avoid. There is no pressure on that because there's no way -- we can only control the things that we can control. Those we're doing a great job with. We will have a fast car.

Q. I don't know if I haven't been paying real close attention, but it seems the past month, two months, you have been always expressing yourself as so grateful to be doing what you do and driving the car that you drive. Has this been something reawakened in you or have I not been paying attention?

MARK MARTIN: No. You've been paying attention. Here is what I'm doing: I'm saying that because I'm comparing that to what I went through a year ago. We raced last year a whole lot of the time for 25th place. I wasn't that grateful for what I was doing (laughter). I wasn't that happy about the performance and wasn't able to do anything about it. I am incredibly grateful for a chance to drive cars that can win races and lead races and be contenders. But I just don't really care anything about racing for 25th. That wouldn't do it. That's not why I race. I will not race like that for very long. You know, thank goodness that I have the opportunity to work with such a wonderful group of people that are able to get this done. It feels so good.

Q. Jack has mentioned once or twice that the drivers in the Top 10, that's where the team strategy starts. Some drivers might go safe for fifth, sixth, seventh, some are going to look at it for Sprint car racing, you can win 10 or lose 10. What is your personal feeling?

MARK MARTIN: Not worried about that yet.

Q. Talking to Ryan Newman today, some of the other drivers, it was like some of the drivers get together and they'll chat as they go out before the race, whatnot. I think you said you didn't know if maybe NASCAR would say anything. Before this race, everybody was talking about it, how intense and crazy it will be. You're such a veteran, known as a clean driver. If you were in a drivers meeting, what would you say you would like to see around you if you could explain it to us?

MARK MARTIN: It's just going to be the same racing as always. You know, it's always intense on the racetrack. You know, there is not 43 live-or-die positions at stake here, there's only about eight or seven or six. I'm sure you know the number better than I do. It's probably five or six spots that are, you know, really under the gun here. I think the racing's always intense. I don't expect it to be that much more intense than normal. We'll just go out and race our race like we always do.

Q. So you wouldn't want to say to anybody, "Hey, no cheap shots at this race," people are vying for position, Jeremy Mayfield, they feel like their whole mission is on this one race?

MARK MARTIN: No, I'd like to see everybody race like they always do. You know, I don't see a lot of cheap shots anyway. I'd just like to see the same racing as always: intense, fair, clean as usual.

Q. You don't want to talk a whole lot about this until the race is coming over this weekend. Why?

MARK MARTIN: Because I've had my heart broke plenty of times in this business. Things seem to find a way of not working out for me. If I don't count my chickens before they hatch, then I won't have any problems here. We've got a race to go do at Richmond. We go do our job, everything goes our way, we'll have something to talk about Saturday night. If it doesn't, we'll set our sites on winning a bunch of races here in the last 10 races, which I know that we can do with our team right now.

Q. At one point in the season when things were kind of going badly, it sounded like you almost conceded any hope to win the championship. How low were you? Does the comeback make it extra special to dig yourself out of that hole?

MARK MARTIN: You know, we have come back, but we haven't. You know, we really haven't totally done it until Saturday night's over with. It's very gratifying to work with such a great race team and have an opportunity to win races and everything. There's, you know, been a lot of pressure to make the Top 10 cut. I didn't think that we could do it when we spotted the competition over and over and over again so many points. But we managed to do it. That's a great thing so far. But we do have another race to contend with, so we'll see how that turns out. But I'm sure that we're going to have a fast race car and a great effort. How it turns out, you know, is how it turns out.

Q. Will you do anything Saturday night to keep yourself appraised of where your competition is, have a guy with a calculator figuring out points, your spotter telling you where McMurray and Newman are, anything like that at all?

MARK MARTIN: Well, if they're behind me, it won't matter, you know, so we don't have to do a calculator. That's what we're really shooting for. If we position those guys behind us, it won't make any difference. I won't not race because I don't have to. I'll run the same race I always do, which is as aggressive as makes sense for the situation. You know, I'll do my very best to try to win the race, my very best to try to run in the Top 5. If we run in the Top 5, you know, it's a no-brainer, done-deal. If we can't run there, then we'll try to run in the Top 10. If we do that, we're pretty comfortable with that. We'll make the best of the situation. But, you know, there's things that sometimes you do miss a setup, sometimes the air comes out of the tires or something breaks, you can't miss a wreck, whatever. The team and I will do our best to avoid all those things.

Q. Going into Richmond, Ryan was saying there's a good prospect you can pass, even though it's a short track. What are your feelings about this track setting up the race?

MARK MARTIN: I think it's great. I think it's a great place to race. I wouldn't get too carried away with Richmond being the greatest place in the world to bring the chase down to because I think that all races mean the same. In other words, Daytona in February was just as important as Richmond is, although the media tends to focus on the last race. But the last race isn't the make-or-breaker. All of them are in a cumulative way, they accumulate. Richmond is a great place to race, we love that. How you do at Richmond is no more important than how you did at all the others. If we would have done a better job, we'd be locked in right now with controlling our fate (laughter). But it's come right down to that race, and we're going to go there and we're going to do everything we can to control our destiny. I'm sure that we're going to run really good. We've been really strong everywhere for the past dozen races. I feel comfortable about how we're going to run. I'll do my best to bring it home. If it doesn't work out, then we'll just set our sites on winning a bunch more races this year. This team's capable of doing that. That's all we can do. Either way it goes, you know, we're going to go out and try to win some races here.

Q. A lot of the top teams have been able to save their tests. Kasey says he's got one left. Where are you in testing? Have you used a lot of them? How many will you have left?

MARK MARTIN: We have two two-day tests left.

Q. And have you tested at Richmond?

MARK MARTIN: Yes.

Q. You spoke earlier about the loyalty factor. Over the years in talking with you, I know loyalty means a lot to you. Does loyalty that you receive from this team mean more to you than the outcome of what happens in Richmond?

MARK MARTIN: Yes, it does mean more to me. The outcome in Richmond, you know, ultimately is not in our control. The effort that was made by this race team has been championship material. It's been a dream for me. 2003 was a very difficult season on me personally because of the performance, and that performance is so controlled by the people that work on that race team. They're getting it done and I'm loving it.

Q. Has it been fun?

MARK MARTIN: It has been fun. Yes, it has. I'm not one that speaks of that a lot. It's definitely been fun and very gratifying. The family feeling that I feel with this race team and the loyalty that I feel right now, you know, makes it really exciting looking forward and going forward.

Q. Are you sitting there in Batesville, reflecting on how far you've come in your career from the time you were running late models as a teenager?

MARK MARTIN: Yeah, you know, it's good for me to get back here sometimes and reflect on where I've come from, what I've accomplished. As you know, it never feels like it's enough and it never feels like I've done enough and accomplished enough, and there's so much more to do. You get so caught up in that that you forget sometimes, you know, where you came from and all the blessings this I've had, opportunities with the people I've had to work with at Roush Racing over the years, the great sponsors, great success. That's what I'm working on here at the dealership. I'm working on building a new facility where can I put all the trophies and all the race cars that I've collected, all the great time capsules, all the photographs and things like that in one place where people can enjoy them. Where I have them now, you know, no one gets to see them except the people that work for me. We're used to seeing them so it doesn't really mean that much to us. I'm really looking forward to building this dealership, you know, and moving into the new facility and everything.

Q. Were your aspirations as grand perhaps as what you have built over the last 25 years?

MARK MARTIN: You know me, Lee, but I was different when I was younger a little bit. I was a little bit cocky, really thought I could go do this thing at a very early age. But, you know, as I traveled the road and I saw how difficult it was to accomplish the things that I thought I could accomplish, it really made me appreciate and understand how lofty my aspirations were, and it makes me appreciate so much the success that I have had.

Q. The 400 points within the leader provision rule might come into it. Is that a good number and is it a good rule?

MARK MARTIN: I don't know. I'll be honest with you, I was very critical of that being totally ridiculous, you know, that anyone outside the Top 10 would be within 400 points. That was my stand on that when they announced that. And it looked pretty ridiculous I'd say four weeks ago. It looked like what I thought it was. But, you know, racing is racing, and things change. Now I was wrong. You know, somebody might get in that's 11th or 12th in the points. So I don't know. It's not for me to be critical of any system. I haven't been critical of the new points system. I've just said that, you know, hopefully we can make it work for us, and hopefully it will work for us. But at the same time, you know, the only thing that -- my only reservation about changing the points system was why we were doing it, not so much whether it was a good thing or not for the fans. Obviously the fans are going to be the winners in this thing. But for the competitors' sake, every man's gain is another man's loss. It can only be -- if it works out good for me, it's going to have to hurt someone else.

Q. Not just for yourself, but the last couple months have been progression for your teams, the Fords. Is that about right? Has this collaboration thing been paying off timely?

MARK MARTIN: We have gained horsepower and reliability in our engines. We were not prepared to use the new cylinder head at the beginning of the year and really didn't get started running any of the new cylinder heads until May or June. Still we're just now being able to use the engines exclusively with the new cylinder heads. We've made some horsepower progress. More than that, you know, we just got our stuff together. The 6 car, those guys have figured out how to set my cars up the way I really like them to handle. They've just made tremendous progress in the chassis setups.

Q. You talked earlier about how you don't count your chickens before they hatch, you've had your heart broken plenty of times in this business. Have you always been sort of the kind of guy that's worn your heart on your sleeve? When you talk about having your heart broken plenty of times, when was it the biggest disappointment in your career?

MARK MARTIN: I don't know for sure. I will say this, just to start with. You know, some people think that I've won a lot of races, but I've lost way more races that I had won, and didn't win (laughter). In other words, you know, whatever the total of my wins are in Busch and Cup, I had more than that in the bag, and had them slip away. That always hurts. You know, I just -- for me, I found the way to protect yourself from all that is, you know, not think something was yours until you had it. I don't know. I've had a lot of disappointments, a lot of disappointments in my career. I've had a lot of high points, too. That's the way they go. I can't point out any one in particular.

Q. Are you a guy that wears your heart on your sleeve? As you get older and more wise...

MARK MARTIN: When you say "wear your heart on your sleeve," you mean it would get broke easy?

Q. No, that you show your feelings, you're not afraid. You've been pretty emotional the last couple months about your team, how you feel about them. Have you always been that expressive?

MARK MARTIN: No, I haven't. I've learned through the years, you know, that keeping an even keel is a good maintenance, a good way to preserve yourself. When things go bad, if you rush out and slash your wrists, thing things are really going to be bad. So I've tried not to commit career suicide by overreacting when things didn't turn out the way you had hoped. But the reason I've been so emotional this year is because I didn't know -- in 2003, I thought that that could be the way my career was going to end, was on that note, on that kind of disappointment and humiliation and performance. And I can't fix that. I couldn't change that. My team has been able to fix that and change that for me. Gosh, I mean, how could I not be emotional toward the effort that the team has given me and the things that they've done? It's just incredible. I'll be grateful for the rest of my life for what they've been able to do with the 6 car in turning it around.

Q. Sounds like you're so happy about the way things are going, does this change your perspective about how much longer you want to do this? At the end of last season you were wondering, like you said, if that's the way your career was going to end. Now things are going so well, are you thinking about maybe wanting to do this a while longer while the team is this good, while you're still this competitive?

MARK MARTIN: I certainly would say that my outlook is totally different than it was a year ago. A year ago, you know, I would have got out if I could. But I had commitments. When you have commitments, you do 'em, and that's it, if you're me. That's it. But, obviously, this year has been totally different. Yes, it feels much better. Yes, I feel like now I can compete against these young guys that were out there beating my brains in week in and week out. I'm the same race car driver as I was a year ago that wasn't getting the performance on the racetrack and getting the job done. The only difference is is that what I'm driving today will go, it will go (laughter). You know, it was a very frustrating year for me last year and a very gratifying year for me this year.

Q. But has it changed your perspective on retirement, how much longer you want to do this?

MARK MARTIN: I appreciate your question, and I appreciate your persistence. You know, we're just going to have to work with what I gave you. I don't have anything to announce at this point in time. I would love to make the Top 10 after Saturday night and have a chance to race for the championship in 2004 and plan on going out and winning it in 2005. That's as far as I'm talking about right now. That's more than enough to be worried about.

THE MODERATOR: We appreciate you taking the time today. I know there's a lot on your mind, obviously in Daytona Beach, as well as getting you ready for Saturday. Thank you very much again, especially at late notice. We wish you and the 6 team the best of luck.

MARK MARTIN: Thank you.

THE MODERATOR: We'd like to thank all of you for your participation. Have a great week, everyone.



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