NASCAR Media Conference
June 14, 2005
DANIEL PASSE: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the NASCAR NEXTEL teleconference. There's one quick housekeeping note as we head into Michigan. This week's NEXTEL Wake-Up Call will take place on Friday, June 17th, at 10:30 a.m. in the media center in the Speedway. The guest will be Ryan Newman. Today we're joined by Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Viagra Roush Racing Ford and winner of the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL All-Star Challenge. As we all know, this is Mark's last year in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series competition, and it will be a great loss to all NEXTEL Cup Series competitors and fans. In his Salute to You final season, he's currently at fifth place and a strong contender to make the Chase and win the championship. Mark has a long and storied history in NEXTEL Cup Series competition, with more than 600 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races and 34 career wins. At Michigan, Mark has had 38 starts, four wins and 14 top fives. Also notable is that Martin's 25 Top 10 finishes at Michigan are the most of any active driver. This weekend, the No. 6 will be dressed in the Batman Begins (inaudible), which is sure to bring luck to Mark. Last year when the No. 6 ran the Batman Justice League paint scheme, Mark finished second. Mark, your last win in Michigan was June of 1998. How do you feel about the combination of this team, this car and the track and Batman as we head into this weekend?
MARK MARTIN: It all feels awesome. You know, we have really, really been strong at Michigan the last several times we've run. It's pretty exciting. The Batman Begins is a highly anticipated movie with a lot of anticipation. It's going to be a really cool movie. I can't wait to go see it. It's neat to be a part of, you know, the whole thing. Of course, they're sponsoring the race, as well, not only just our car, but the race Sunday. The Salute to You tour is going right on schedule, better than I ever could have dreamed, with the win at the All-Star race, that added a little bit of extra pizzazz to some of the things we're doing. We've had some good times already with the fans, and many more cool things planned in the future.
DANIEL PASSE: That sounds great. I'd like to open it up to our callers.
Q. I want to talk about young drivers. We have so many drivers that are under the age of 25 in the Cup Series today. With the exception of a few, Carl Edwards, your teammate, as one, it seems to me when we see the caution flag come out, a lot of the young drivers are involved in it. Are we going too young with some of these drivers? Are we not giving them enough time to experience the whole aura of NASCAR, including the time they have to develop off the racetrack?
MARK MARTIN: Well, now, wait. You know, it's always going to be skewed toward the younger drivers, the accidents. I mean, in 1977, every time there was a wreck in front of me, I was in it. I didn't cause 'em, but I was in 'em. And I couldn't understand how the veterans like Dick Trickle and some of the guys I raced with, why they weren't in them. A couple years later I figured it out it's just because you miss them more often when you have more experience. So I think that's something you're always going to deal with. I think that was that way to some degree when we got started in NASCAR, too. But most of the NASCAR drivers that are veterans today had tons more experience racing when we got a chance to race NASCAR. You know, part of that's a learning curve. But it's a different world today. That's something you're going to deal with. You're going to deal with inexperienced drivers to some degree on the racetrack and off the racetrack as well because the sport is leaning towards younger drivers. But, you know, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm a big supporter of these young guys. They're the best young guys in motorsports right now and there are some more that are younger than them coming that are even better than they are or better than some of them are. So it's a real exciting time in motorsports and in NASCAR, in my opinion.
Q. Does the ABC Program, is that one of the steps forward to give them more experience that may work?
MARK MARTIN: That will work. But that's just a high-profile way that it's always been done. It's always been done that way from short tracks back home to ARCA to Busch to Cup. It's no different than it ever was. It's just that, you know, Ryan Newman made it a little bit more popular because he was a higher-profile guy and all. But it's an exciting time for NASCAR and motorsports, I'm telling you. Some of these young guys that are coming along are going to make old men out of these 25-year-olds.
Q. How are you going to drive with a Batman cape on?
MARK MARTIN: It works well in the car, believe it or not. As long as it doesn't get up in my eyes, I'll be fine.
Q. You keep saying these young guys, these young guys. What about the young women? You get to see a lot of grass-roots racing because of Matt. You've probably seen a lot more girls in the cars than you did in the days when you were racing. What is the potential for a woman to make it in Winston Cup after this whole Danica explosion that we've experienced in the last month?
MARK MARTIN: I think it's going to happen. I just don't know when and where. You know, obviously Danica has been able to breathe new life into IndyCar racing. I think that's fantastic. Although NASCAR's not gasping for air right now, you know, when it happens to NASCAR, it's going to breathe some more new life into NASCAR, too. You know, there's nothing and never has been anything stopping it from happening. We just haven't had our Danica Patrick lately. You know, that just hasn't happened to NASCAR, that's all.
Q. Has the equipment stopped it from happening? I've yet to see a woman in the NASCAR ranks have the type of equipment that would give her a fighting chance against the boys.
MARK MARTIN: Well, they have to earn the equipment, just like all the rest of us have. And Danica has earned her equipment and her opportunity. Didn't just materialize out of air. She earned it one piece at a time, starting at 10 years old. And that will have to happen to the NASCAR driver as well.
Q. Have you seen a lot more girls around Matt's age coming up through the ranks than you've ever seen in the past?
MARK MARTIN: I've seen some girls coming up through quarter midget racing and all that were outstanding and were as good on a national level as any of these guys. But, you know, what happens is along the way there's not nearly as many girls as there are boys, and along the way a certain percentage of the girls and a certain percentage of the boys get distracted and, you know, don't wind up fulfilling their potential, so it doesn't happen. But that happens to boys and girls.
Q. Mark Martin Day tomorrow in Daytona, official proclamation. Can you talk about that a little bit?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, it's kind of weird because, gosh, I hadn't ever -- you know, if you asked me, I had never done anything at Daytona (laughter). It's cool. I remember coming down here in 1973 and '4 as a young teenager and thinking that Daytona Beach was the coolest place on earth. I can't believe that not only do I live here but, you know, somebody thinks enough of me to give me the honor.
Q. Really the Pepsi 400 is a starting point for the second half of the season. It will be first track where you're going to be in your last race with the Pepsi 400. Have you thought about that at all?
MARK MARTIN: I sure haven't. I know kind of where you're going with asking the question, you know, because I've been asked the questions a lot this year. Possibly when we get into the last time at some of these racetracks, maybe it will trigger something in my mind and I'll realize it. But so far, when we went to Vegas, I never thought about "This is the last time I'm going to race here in a Cup car." I'm just really not concerned about all that. I am really, really busy. I've never been so busy in all my life. I barely have time to eat, sleep or do anything else that's essential. We're working real hard at the Salute to You tour and doing some cool stuff with the fans and taking care of our great sponsors and, first and foremost, trying to keep our eye on the target performance-wise with this race team.
Q. As a competitor, can you give me sort of a brief description about the differences between the Daytona 500 and the Pepsi 400, how they feel, what you have to go through?
MARK MARTIN: You know, I've never really differentiated that much between the two because you still have the same challenges either race. The 500 is seemingly a very long race, almost a marathon. It's a tough race to seem to run all day and finish without events. You know, it seems to be a very eventful race mechanically and accident-wise and everything else, whereas the July race is a little more straightforward, you know, a little bit more normal feeling race.
Q. Has the attitude towards women in NASCAR changed? I think before not only didn't they have the equipment, but nobody I think wanted to give them the equipment. Now there's sort of this bracing of women and an effort to promote women. Has the attitude changed, and if so, why?
MARK MARTIN: First of all, you missed the mark on a couple things there. The statement you made that no one wanted to give them equipment, that's not true. That is not true. When you're Danica Patrick and you're 10 years old and are standing next to another 10-year-old and you're go-kart racing or quarter midget racing, that's your opportunity. And if you go out there and you win, win, win, you have to do that. Every boy that is in NASCAR today did that. They went and they won and they won and they won and they made their opportunities. The same goes for the females. You know, they have to do the same thing. It is just not -- there haven't been the stand-outs, you know, have not been there all the way through the ranks, all the way up until their mid 20s. In the old days, they had to race till they were 30 before you'd ever get a shot at NASCAR. Now you're getting a shot at late teens or early 20s, and people are taking notice. That's one of the things that has helped, I think, you know, along with the sponsorships that are out there today. You can make a great package. I mean, just look at Danica and her success. That could be done in NASCAR. That can be done in Formula One, for crying out loud. Can you imagine the stir? I mean, that would be so cool. That thought just came to my mind. There's no physical reason why it can't happen, and there's also no reason why it won't happen. It just takes the right person with the right tools, with the right drive, with no distractions, being in the right place at the right time to get the opportunity and, bam, it could happen.
Q. The sponsorship with the movie, in other sports it seems like fans suffer sponsorship. They change the Fiesta Bowl to the name of a title sponsor Fiesta Bowl. In NASCAR, it's more embraced when a sponsor shows up and pours money in. Why is that different?
MARK MARTIN: Let me tell you, I'm not very bright, but let me tell you my analogy on that. There was football before the Fiesta Bowl. See, and the fans don't feel that a sponsor for the Bowl is really necessary, the old school. The new guys don't care. The new fans, heck, they grew up, that's the way it is. Who cares? To them - this is my opinion now - to the old-school people, they feel, you know, resentful toward that. In racing, it's different. It can't happen without sponsors. And it wasn't anything like it is today when we had much smaller sponsors. So the race fan understands that it is absolutely critical to have those sponsors for the races as well as for the teams and everything because we can't make it on television revenue. We can't even come close, you know, to racing on the revenues from television or on the revenues from ticket sales and television. You couldn't even come close. So it's a real different adventure comparing the two.
Q. Do you have any idea this past weekend what was shredding everybody's tires?
MARK MARTIN: This is not new. We had the same problem at Indy, if you'll recall back. In fact, I was running fourth, and they had a green/white checkered and my left front blew out on the last lap and I went from fourth to 27th. And there were a lot of left fronts that blew out at Indy. This is the only racetrack that is similar in a lot of ways to Indy. We were totally confused about the Indy thing. But I'm not even a bit surprised about the Poconos race with this after seeing what happened with Indy. You're talking about a combination of huge right rear springs, big camber settings on the left front, and low air pressures, and no way to identify what it is. We still don't know is it really camber? Is it really air pressure? Is it really the right rear spring? Is it all of them together? If it's all of them together, how much do the guys that blew out have to back off in order to not blow left fronts out? It's more difficult than right front tires. You know, when you blow a right front tire out, it's air pressure or camber, that's all, you know, you figure. And so you take -- you put some air in it and you take some camber out. Well, it's not as clear-cut on the left front because you don't really know what of the three things it really is and what of the three things will really help it. So it's a little bit harder to determine and it's also harder for the teams to fix their problems.
Q. Rusty has talked a lot about next year, he's going to be helping his son's racing career. How is your son's racing doing? How involved do you plan to be?
MARK MARTIN: I don't plan to be deeply involved in his racing next year. I will help him. But, you know, it is -- it's not the focus of my life. The focus of my life is to be a great dad and to support him in whatever way he wants. If the focus of his life was to race, and he came to me, you know, with needing my help, then I'd turn the world upside down for him. But, you know, we're just having fun. He's 13 years old. And something that I think is incredibly important is for him to be a kid, for him to be 13 years old. And next year he's 14, and I want him to be 14. I want him to have the opportunity to have a childhood and to be a teenager without having to make a lifelong commitment at 13 years old and, you know, never have an opportunity to enjoy being a young man. So I will help him do whatever it is, no matter what that might be.
Q. You were talking about all the young guys in the sport today. How are the discussions coming on who's going to be in the 6 car? Anywhere close to making an announcement?
MARK MARTIN: To be real honest with you, there's been more discussions on that than I've been included in, so I don't really know. I can't really answer your question. I don't really know where they're at right now because they've been working on it and I've been real busy and haven't had a chance to be involved in that.
Q. Nothing that can convince you to be that guy?
MARK MARTIN: No. I won't do it. I'm sorry. I know I've disappointed some people, especially Jack Roush. But I've made my decision. You know, I made that commitment when I was 15 that I was speaking about to you before. I don't regret it. I've had a great career, more success than I could have ever dreamed of. But before it's too late, I'm going to start having fun.
Q. You said it today, and I know you are a fan of the young talent, it was nice to see you going over to Kyle after Dover, but that's the kind of guy you are. Could you give us some short takes or impressions on three guys in particular, Carl, Kyle Busch and Brian Vickers, just your impressions?
MARK MARTIN: They're all really, really tremendous race car drivers. Very fine young men. Just spectacular. It's guys like that that are putting Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace -- I shouldn't speak for Rusty. It's guys like that that are putting me out of business. They're fantastic. I would like to say to everybody, Joey Logano turned 15 three weeks ago, and in his very second Hooter's Pro Cup race he qualified sixth and won the race. Like I say, I think Joey Logano is going to be pushing those guys toward going out of business in 10 years.
Q. I wondered about Joey and the 6 car.
MARK MARTIN: I would put him in that car in a heartbeat. I'm tell you, he's ready. He's good enough to do it.
Q. I wonder if he has a sister. What are you going to do if you win this title? Are you going to defend it?
MARK MARTIN: No.
MARK MARTIN: I would really, really enjoy -- you know, not that I'm a guy who likes to, you know, commit practical jokes or anything like that, but I would really enjoy messing everybody up, NASCAR and NEXTEL, by winning their championship and not coming back (laughter). That would be the coolest thing.
Q. Are you absolutely serious?
MARK MARTIN: I'm serious as a heart attack.
Q. About your venture into the Truck Series next year. Next week they're at Milwaukee, a track that the Cup Series doesn't race on. Which track that the Cup Series doesn't run on are you most looking forward to getting a chance to run on?
MARK MARTIN: You know what, I hadn't thought about that. That's a good point, Milwaukee would certainly be one of them. That was -- in ASA, that was our Daytona 500, going to Milwaukee, our Daytona Speedway. That's probably the one that comes most to mind when I think of that. But, you know, I think it's just going to be a ball. I really look forward to it, just the whole Truck Series. I'm really excited about it and excited about 2006.
Q. Has there been any talks about you maybe doing a race or two this year at all at a track that maybe the Cup Series is running the same weekend or are you going to wait till next year?
MARK MARTIN: Well, not that I'm making an official announcement, but it is our plan to run Homestead, which would be Truck, Busch and Cup all at Homestead, you know, wrapping up that weekend. So that is our plan right now, to run the Truck at Homestead.
Q. This past weekend, exactly what did that victory at Pocono mean to Jack Roush Racing?
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, gosh, with all the success that Roush Racing has had, that's one that hasn't worked out. Jeff Burton has been a spectacular driver at Pocono with Roush Racing, and Ted Musgrave, as well. Just never had worked out. Now they've just added one more success to the record.
Q. Is the thrill as big now as it was when you first started, when you were in contention for the Chase for the Championship? You're fifth in the standings. Is the thrill still the same when you're that high in the standings?
MARK MARTIN: Oh, I'm so cautious to guard myself from brokenheartedness that, you know, I still look at it like I'm not going to make it. That's the way I preserve myself. I'm very concerned about making it because of the competition. I know that we're just one or two more wrecks and a blown motor away from missing the cut. And those things I can't control, see. If I could control all those things, then we'd be in, we'd make it no problem.
Q. Do the point standings make you think about that more, your past times?
MARK MARTIN: Coming close is a good thing, not a bad thing (laughter).
Q. Are you definitely doing the Truck Series next year?
MARK MARTIN: I haven't officially announced that, but that is what I want to do, and that is what I plan on doing. But, I mean, I haven't announced it. So therefore if I didn't -- somebody couldn't say, "You said you were going to and you didn't." I can't do that yet. I will make an announcement officially when we sign a sponsor and a partner for the thing. But, you know, it is my intention to race the Truck for Jack Roush on a full schedule.
Q. Last week here at Texas Motor Speedway Dan Wheldon kind of fired a warning shot at NASCAR, saying the series has tremendous momentum, the quality of racing has really improved. He kind of said, "NASCAR, watch out, boys. Here we come." Do you see anything, IRL or anybody, being a threat to NASCAR as far as fans, sponsors, any of that?
MARK MARTIN: Well, I think that the comment that Dan made there was just, you know, a reaction to being bombarded and pressured after winning the Indy 500. Not being there, I couldn't say for sure, but I would assume that it came after being wore down. Obviously the IRL has momentum, especially with Danica Patrick and all the exposure that that's brought to them. That's breathed some new life into IndyCar racing that just wasn't there before. They have great racing on those particular racetracks, like Texas and all. So they certainly are on the upswing. I don't think they're going to put NASCAR out of business.
Q. Jamie McMurray was on a show last night saying that he can see the writing on the wall, that he's 29 years old and he doesn't see himself being in anywhere close to the length of time that you have been in the sport. How do you see the evolution changing? Do you think there will be a place for veterans down the road or is that like a pipe dream because of the commitment?
MARK MARTIN: I don't think a lot of veterans are going to want to run the full Cup schedule at 50 years old, you know, in the far future, number one. And I think that it would take a spectacular veteran to pull it off in the far future because of the pressure that will be put on to perform against youth.
Q. You talked about being too busy to be reflective this season. Do you think being reflective or sentimental too much would make you unfocused?
MARK MARTIN: You know, gosh, I don't know. For some weird reason, all that just hasn't existed in my world yet. I'm a guy that always looks at the target, and all that just really doesn't have much to do with the real target. At the same time I am very proud of the success I've had. I am building a museum at my new Ford dealership in Arkansas, in my hometown, to display all of that, to sort of share that with the world, with the race fans, put it that way. I don't want to keep going because this is the time for me. But at times I wish that I was 15 years younger, you know, and at this point in my life. But who doesn't? You know, so the reality of it is that it is time. The reality isn't that I can't do it any more; it's that I choose this time, you know, so I can get out with my dignity and pride rather than hang on by a thread as long as I possibly can.
Q. Has it not really been that hard to treat this year just like it's any other season?
MARK MARTIN: I think the reason that I'm able to come to terms with this so much is because it's by my choice, you know. It's not like, well, I'm having to drop down the scale of competitive cars in order to keep going. I've chose -- this is my choice. I haven't been forced into this position. That evidently must make it easier for me.
Q. Off-the-wall question. The TV show FX 360, what was that like to be filmed in its reality form? Have you watched it?
MARK MARTIN: I've watched the rough cuts of it. I haven't watched the program, but I know what's on because I saw the rough cut. We do get editing rights. It was not as intrusive as I expected. Made really great friends with the crew, really friends. Was slightly uncomfortable at times, but very little. And that had to do with, you know, my being -- maybe getting embarrassed, you know, that I went somewhere and had TV cameras following me, let's say, going to the dentist, for example. You know, it was embarrassing because I don't like -- I get embarrassed about -- you know, if I'd had been standing there, I'd be saying, "He thinks he's big, look at him, got them cameras following him everywhere." Know what I mean? For the most part, it was much less intrusive than I expected and made great friends with the crew.
Q. I know you like your privacy. When I saw your name was going to be listed on this season's event, I was a little surprised.
MARK MARTIN: It was a part of the salute. That's part of it. I absolutely turned it down last year. If I had signed a new contract, I certainly would have turned it down this year. But it was important to me. I felt like it was an opportunity to show my fans to get to know me a little bit better yet. So that's why we did it. I'm really happy with the show. I think it turned out well.
DANIEL PASSE: Thank you very much. Thank you, Mark, so much for joining us. Best of luck in Michigan. Thank you, everybody, for participating.
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