NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Preview: #6, Mark Martin
21 October 1997
#6 Mark Martin, Valvoline Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series ACDelco 400 Advance North Carolina Motor Speedway MARK MARTIN NOTES & QUOTES: ACDELCO 400 'Points. That's what it's all about' ROCKINGHAM, NC - The question is whether there is enough time to catch him. The question refers not only to Jeff Gordon but also to Mark Martin. Martin trails Gordon by 110 points, 4321-4211, in the NASCAR Winston Cup championship standings with three races remaining in the season. By finishing sixth or better in each event, Gordon would guarantee himself the title, regardless of what the Valvoline team can do. But Martin leads third-place Dale Jarrett (4166) by just 45 points, meaning Jarrett is well within reach of that level. Martin could guarantee second by finishing third or better in each of the remaining events. Martin, 38, is no stranger to the battle for the NASCAR Winston Cup championship. The Batesville, Ark., native is one of the biggest names in racing, and his Valvoline team is Ford's most successful stock car racing team. In fact, the Valvoline team has been, by far, Ford's most successful Winston Cup points team in the 1990's, and is second only to Dale Earnhardt and Richard Childress among total points earned this decade. Martin and Valvoline carried a string of eight consecutive top-10 finishes in the final NASCAR standings into this season, the longest current streak of any team and matched only by Ricky Rudd among drivers. Martin has not finished lower than sixth in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings since 1988. The Valvoline Ford team is led by Martin, car owner Jack Roush, team manager Steve Hmiel and crew chief Jim Fennig. In 1997, the team has four wins, 15 top fives and 21 top 10s, as well as winnings of $1,751,174. Martin will almost certainly surpass his career high winnings of $1,893,519 of 1995. The thoughts of Valvoline Ford driver Mark Martin heading into Rockingham: "All along I've been saying something had to happen with them (Jeff Gordon) for us to be able to make any kind of move in the points. The bad thing is something happened to them at Talladega but we ended up in the same deal. We finish 30th, they finish 35th and we pick up 15 measly points. "Behind us, Dale Jarrett has surely been looking at it the same way. We both have problems and he gets through it fairly well. Sure, he's had better days but he finishes 21st and, all of the sudden, is right in the thick of the hunt for second and within a shot of first. He has been waiting for two of us to have bad days, and we were able to accommodate him. "We're right where we were. As far as I'm concerned, nothing has changed. I can't look at it like he has to finish sixth or better. All we can do is get as many points as we can get, and see where things are when these last three races are done. The obvious thing to do is go out, win all three and lead the most laps in all three. We could do that and still not win the championship - though I'll admit it would make second feel a whole lot better. "Points. That's everything. That's what it's all about. It's like any sport. The difference is we need basketball points to win and all he needs is football points. If we have the basketball points and he gets baseball points instead, then we have a chance to win the thing. "But it still boils down to the team with the most points after Atlanta is the one who wins the championship. That sounds really simple but look at the way it's set up. It's very simple. It would be like a football team playing a whole season but winning the games doesn't mean as much as how many points you end up with. You add all of the team's points together at the end of the year to decide who wins the Super Bowl. That's the way we do it. There's no second team or trying not to run the score up. I've always said one of the best things about racing is you never see somebody kick an extra-point. In racing, you try to run the score up. You try to win by as much as you can. You try to make them cry. "We're going to Rockingham feeling that way the same way Jeff Gordon is going to Rockingham feeling that way or Dale Jarrett or Jeff Burton or anybody else. We're going to do whatever it takes to win the race and do whatever it takes to lead every lap because we have to have those points. Wins are points. "I'm going to need a special focus at Rockingham. It's not one of my best tracks. I guess that's kind of strange. We won our first race - me, Jack Roush, Steve Hmiel and these guys - at Rockingham. It was this very race in 1989. It was really special, something I'll always remember. And we've not been able to win there since. We've had some good runs and we've been in the hunt, but we haven't been able to win there. We're going to have to really buckle down and focus hard on getting the best possible setup from the very beginning of the weekend. We have to qualify well to get the best pit position we can get. We have to practice well, giving us the chance to get the car tweaked just right. We have to race well, to lead as much as we can and to do whatever we can do to win the race. "If we should win the race and if we should lead the most laps, anything happening in the points will still depend on what Jeff Gordon has done. If we win and lead the most laps, and he finishes second, then we haven't gained much of anything as far as the championship is concerned. If we win and lead the most laps, and he finishes 31st, then we're leading the thing. Still, the only thing we can determine is how we do in the race. Talladega is a good example of how we can't always even determine that. He will determine where we stand in the points when the race ends. "We're going to think about Phoenix and we're going to think about Atlanta, and we're going to think hard about them. But now isn't the time to do that. There will be plenty of time for both of them. Rockingham is everything right now for this Valvoline Ford team." By Williams Company of America, Inc.