NASCAR Media Conference
April 10, 2007
THE MODERATOR: How do you feel coming back to the track this weekend?
MARK MARTIN: I'm all charged up, ready to go to the racetrack. I'm all excited. I have certainly been anything but on vacation. I just can't imagine how I could have possibly been more busy these three weeks considering that I wasn't racing.
But we did a Car of Tomorrow test at Richmond, which was helping us prepare for a couple days, helping us prepare for Phoenix. Had Fan Appreciation days here Easter weekend, which we had thousands of people here. Had a blast. It's our annual event, third annual. Just been running wide open, doing photo shoots, shooting commercials and taking care of business.
Still been like a whirlwind, but I certainly enjoyed my weekends.
THE MODERATOR: Certainly a couple of fun weeks there. As we approach Phoenix, you approach your first event in the Car of Tomorrow. What have you gained from your tests and from watching Regan Smith drive the 01? What are your overall impressions coming to a one-mile track like Phoenix?
MARK MARTIN: I think it will be fun. I don't really feel that we are on the cutting edge of the COT car again racing right now. Certainly look to be competitive in our tests that we've done at Bristol and Richmond. We hope to be competitive. But I really feel like, as a group, we certainly have some work to do and some ground to gain on a couple of other teams out there.
THE MODERATOR: We'll now open it up to questions from our members of the media.
Q. Sitting at home and watching the racing, what did you think of the Car of Tomorrow out there on the track? Did it make racing more exciting, or were you thinking if you were out there you would be could go this instead? What were your impressions?
MARK MARTIN: I have a hard time imagining how the Car of Tomorrow can make racing more exciting. I know that that might have been someone's hope along the way, but I don't see that. I don't believe that it's going -- I don't believe it's going to do that.
But still, I'm a huge race fan. I thought the racing went pretty well. We will continue to make the car more and more friendly for the competitors to operate and we'll continue to make it better, and hopefully there will be some changes in the rules and things that will make it work better for us.
But from a spectator point of view, you could hardly tell the difference.
Q. In testing, what were your impressions being inside the car? Did you find it to be harder to handle? How did it drive?
MARK MARTIN: It doesn't work as well as the other car. It's basically because the splitter design in the front end is mandated so close to the ground that it cuts about 50% of the front suspension travel out of the car. That's really the only thing about the car that is really throwing the teams for a loop. It's really hard to get used to having to limit the front suspension to about half what we're used to using.
Q. Does it make it for a bumpier ride that way?
MARK MARTIN: A little bit, yeah. Of course, the car doesn't turn as well because it doesn't have as much suspension in the front. It's a real struggle to get the car turned, so the back end slides around a lot because you're trying so hard to get it to turn.
It's a challenge for everyone.
Q. A lot of Cup drivers drive Busch, you included. A lot of up-and-coming drivers who don't have the Cup experience that are trying to get up through the Busch ranks are getting squeezed out. An example is a kid from Sacramento, Burney Lamar. Do you see there being a time when it might be more friendly for the Busch drivers to come up, or is Busch going to become Cup Light where it's another Cup race?
MARK MARTIN: It's hard to say. I'm not very good with predicting the future. That's one I couldn't say for sure. When I do know, I certainly will say. This is one question that I couldn't answer for sure. It could go either way.
Q. What would you like to see? Would you like to see more development in the Busch Series?
MARK MARTIN: That's another tough question. If you take the Cup guys out, that's a good thing for everyone else except there won't be any sponsors and it won't be very appealing to the fans. If it's Cup Light, then I don't know. But there's all different ways to look at it.
If you are good enough to come in there and compete with the Cup guys, then you're good enough to get a shot in Nextel Cup. It would be hard for you to convince me that it's harder for a driver today to make it to Nextel Cup than it used to be. That would be a tough one for you to do for me. It's always been incredibly difficult to break through to the top series. I don't think it's harder today than it ever was. It's just real hard. But it always was.
Q. Not being in a Nextel Cup race in quite a long time, you did have a busy schedule. You probably have had a couple minutes to reflect on what it was like not to be in the car. What kind of feeling did you have not to be in the Cup car?
MARK MARTIN: It was wonderful. I was doing just exactly what I wanted to do. It was incredible to be home on Friday instead of at the racetrack facing the pressure of getting ready to qualify and going through the qualification part of it and everything. I had the opportunity to have lunch with my son.
One weekend I got to go racing with Ricky Carmichael and Matt. Another weekend I got to have my two-year-old grandson over and all my friends over to cook out and watch the race. Developing and opening a new chapter in my life.
Q. You talked about being with Matt. How is his career developing? Do you see a lot of you within him or is he growing up to be a unique personality?
MARK MARTIN: Well, he's not me. He doesn't want to live in my shadow. He's a good little race car driver, but I don't have any idea what he's going to do with his life at this time. I don't know if he's going to be a race car driver or not. That will be a choice of his that he will make whenever the time comes to make that.
As of right now, we're just having fun with it.
Q. When you look at being in the Roush organization for so long, now going to Bobby Ginn, is that a breath of fresh air or what is it like to be somewhere else after so many years? What is your experience like now being somewhere new and in a growing organization compared to Ginn Racing?
MARK MARTIN: Initially I was horrified of making a change like that after 19 years. But it's something that I'm really, really glad that I did. It's really, really fun for me because I have a chance to help build and develop something, much like I did with Roush Racing. I get to participate in all the things that I want to participate in and I get to not participate in some of the things that I don't want to, which is incredible. It's fantastic.
I get to teach and mentor great young drivers. I get to race a car that is a contender to win whenever I want. I get to have a weekend off when I want and do some things with my family and pursue a different chapter, open a different chapter in my life.
I am so thrilled with my decision to go over there with them. I love those people. I love the team. I love working with U.S. Army. It's an honor and a privilege. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
Q. Looking at all your years of racing and being in the NASCAR way of life, what is something a fan or even someone at NASCAR can say that you have an effect or contribution, Hey, they took that suggestion and it's a way of life today that has helped someone out?
MARK MARTIN: That I made?
MARK MARTIN: I'm just a little, little, little bitty gear in the big wheel, you know. I don't know.
Q. Are you happy with the progress Ricky Carmichael has made so far? What are some of the problems or issues you see being a rookie?
MARK MARTIN: We've just done one race and I was thrilled with what he did. He has an awful lot to learn and he learned quite a bit the first time out. Real excited about working with Ricky. I love him as a person. He is a fierce competitor and incredibly talented. I'm sure, as sure as I'm breathing, that he's going to do this.
Q. There's still some concerns I guess at Texas Speedway, some drivers have brought up the fact there's still a bump in the road, bump in the track, there's some problems there. Are you satisfied with the changes they've made?
MARK MARTIN: Yeah, I'm not aware of any problems at the racetrack. I love it and I think the drivers love it. I think the fans love it. It's a fabulous facility.
Q. Is it to be expected that teams have struggled so far this year? Is that to be expected?
MARK MARTIN: Let me give you my take on this. I know you haven't noticed this, but this is the truth from a guy who knows. I know what I'm talking about. Dave Blaney and Bill Davis' car was a top five car in all four of the first four races, they just didn't finish there. They exceeded my expectations. I mean, serious top five car. Didn't get the finish they had coming.
And then Vickers ran great in the Bud Shootout at Daytona and ran great in California, but didn't make most of the rest of the races. He could have ran great like 10th. I think that's great.
So, yeah, they've had a disaster. You know, I mean, Michael Waltrip Racing hasn't met expectations, but whose expectations. My expectations for them were for them to struggle desperately because it's such a hard -- what he tried to do is huge: start a new three-car team. Wasn't expanding a two-car team to a three-car team, whatever. Starting from scratch, Michael got good people, but he just didn't get them mixed together just right just yet.
Michael Waltrip Racing is struggling, and Red Bull is struggling, not necessarily Toyota is struggling. I'd say Bill Davis is exceeding expectations with the 22 car.
THE MODERATOR: Mark, out here in Phoenix, we have a program called Salute to Military Families Program. Last year it was able to provide over 4,000 tickets to military servicemen and their families in the state of Arizona. We've continued this program this year. As you know, much of NASCAR is devoted to military support. You driving the U.S. Army car, you never hesitate to speak of that, your appreciation of the military while racing. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that and what it means to you to represent the U.S. Army this season.
MARK MARTIN: Well, you know, the U.S. Army represents so many things that are important to me and to the fabric of our country, like loyalty, honesty, duty, discipline, respect, a lot of things that are huge not only to me but to our country. What we don't get the message across enough is how proud we are of our soldiers and what they're doing for us, what it means to us and to our country. That's something that I think is really important for all of us to try to keep in mind.
THE MODERATOR: Mark, thank you very much for your time. On behalf of the West Coast media, good luck this week at Texas running the Cup and Busch Series cars. We look forward to seeing you here under the lights at Phoenix International Raceway.
MARK MARTIN: I can't wait to get there. Thank you, guys.
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