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NASCAR's Mark Martin
2006 Season Articles - January

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NASCAR Nextel Cup Awards Banquet at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel: Mark Martin
NASCAR-CUP > NASCAR Champions Week, New York City, 2005-12-02: Friday
Image by Autostock

NASCAR Nextel Cup Awards Banquet at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel: Mark Martin
NASCAR-CUP > NASCAR Champions Week, New York City, 2005-12-02: Friday
Image by Autostock

Matt Martin to be sponsored by Coca-Cola in 2006
By Kevin Woods, Matt Martin Racing
January 24, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Coca-Cola, the official soft drink of NASCAR, will sponsor up and coming driver young Matt Martin for the 2006 racing season. After a successful year of racing against adults in the FASCAR Pro Truck Series in 2005, for 2006 Matt will compete in a limited schedule in the ASA Late Model Southern Series, as well as running in the FASCAR Pro Truck and Sportsman Series.

Throughout the season the 14-year-old driver from Daytona Beach, Fla. will pilot both the No. 66 Ford F-150 and his Ford Taurus sponsored by Coca-Cola , Ford Motor Company and Mark Martin Ford Mercury.

Despite racing against drivers 10 to 20 years older, Martin's 2005 season got off to a great start. He won a FASCAR Truck Series event at New Smyrna Speedway on Jan. 8. Martin was a threat to win each weekend he piloted his No. 66 Ford F-150, and posted his second victory at New Smyrna in September.

The move to a limited schedule in the ASA Late model Series is the latest step up in competition for the son of NASCAR legend Mark Martin. Matt's career began in Quarter Midgets when he just was seven years old, and his racing experience also includes Bandoleros, Legend Cars, the Fastruck Series and the FASCAR Pro Truck Series.

In 2003 Matt was signed to a driver development contract with the Ford Motor Company, making him the youngest member of the Ford racing family. Currently Martin's primary sponsors include Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company and Mark Martin Ford Mercury. Associate sponsors include Boll'e Sunglasses, JR's Garage, Sam Bass Gallery, AERO Wheels, R&E Racing Electronics, Afco Racing Products, Mac Tools, Quarter Master, Simpson Racing Products and Schoenfield Headers.

Roush Racing - Ford Media Tour Visit
Ford Racing: News
January 23, 2006

The first Ford Racing stop on the 2006 Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour was at Roush Racing, where car owner Jack Roush and his drivers spoke about the upcoming season.

MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion


"I feel like we as a team, the backbone of this team is still in place. We had a couple of members of our team move on. They didn't move out of Roush Racing, they were promoted and stayed in Roush Racing, so that just tells you how good a people we had on the 6 car. So we've got a couple of new members on the team. They're gonna do a fantastic job, but Pat Tryson, Mike Janow and our car chief, Todd Zeigler, and myself are all fired up to have a better 2006 than we had even in 2005. This is gonna be a great year for me because I have the opportunity to race the Ford Fusion. It's a fantastic car that I really look forward to working with on the race track as well as in the showroom. And AAA is giving me an opportunity to do some really important work, especially with something close to my heart which is driver safety for teenagers, which I have one of, so it has special significance to me of something that's really important."

GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion


"The 10 races, I'd have to say, we did a great job. It's obvious we need to be better at Martinsville. We need to be a little bit more cautious at Talladega to try and just finish a little bit better in those 10. That's all we needed. Thirty-five points is obviously not a very big margin. Tony had trouble as well. He had a crash at Charlotte and didn't run well at Dover, so we just hope that next year we really have the same year that we did this year. I was really fortunate to win six times and have the team that I do. We're probably one of the only teams in this sport that didn't change one crew member for the 2006 season, so I've got everybody back and Doug is in charge of the program. Mark was kind enough to loan me one of his guys for a crew chief for my Busch car, so we have that promotion within our organization and that makes great people. I'm really looking forward to Ameriquest on the Busch car and running the 16 car in the Busch Series, too. I'm looking forward to that, but I'm hoping we can mirror a season like we had last year. I don't know how to make it any better, other than just focus and just do the best we can those last 10 races. It seems like I raced the whole season to get there, but I just want to run the last 10 again. I know you have to make the chase and that's gonna be an important part, but I had so much fun in those last 10 races that I'm ready for that again."

MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion


"We ran really well toward the end of the year and through the middle of the year. At the beginning of the year we just didn't pay enough attention to our cars and probably what was going on. So I look forward to going into this year. The Ford Fusion is gonna be a great car. I think Robbie and all the crew chiefs are working really well together right now. I've seen all the cars that everybody is building and all the cars are pretty close to the same right now. Everybody seems to be working together more so, I think, than last year, so I'm really looking forward to the season. Hopefully, we can get to Victory Lane a few more times and make the chase again and race those last 10. Like Jack was saying, it was a great year for Roush. I know from a driver's standpoint it's a huge honor to be driving these cars. I mean, to get in equipment this good. You know your equipment is good enough to go win races and that's a great feeling as a driver. Now it's just up to the team and myself to try to figure out how to do it. We have everything we need, we just have to figure out how to put it all together."

JAMIE MCMURRAY -- No. 26 Crown Royal/Irwin Ford Fusion


"I kind of have the same feeling going into this season as I did in 2003 after winning at Charlotte and with the wins that Sterling had. It's somewhat like Matt said, when you know that you have cars that are capable of winning, you just have to do your part and work with your team and put yourself in the right position, so I'm very optimistic about the season. I'm going through a little bit of a learning curve right now with Jimmy (Fennig). I went over some of the setup stuff that the 26 team ran last year, and the other guys from Roush Racing, and it's a little bit different than what I'm used to, so that's gonna be a little bit of challenge to learn all that, but I think the Vegas test is gonna be really good for us. We've already tested a couple of times and I've learned a little bit. I've learned the guys names on my team. Believe it or not that's a big deal. I know that every year when you hear guys get up and you go to these media tours that everyone talks about how excited they are, but I really am because I feel like I'm with the best team in our sport right now. As Jack said earlier, he feels like his team is better than it's ever been, so I'm just ready to get all the media stuff out of the way and go racing."

CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion


"David Ragan and I went and ran street stocks the other night at Volusia, so we can't get enough of it. I love racing. I feel like the rest of these guys that I have an amazing opportunity to drive for the best team in the world and I can't even describe it. I'm super-excited about racing with Office Depot this year to say the least. I'm really excited after staring at this World Financial Group Ford back there (a wrecked car that flipped at Daytona) to go to Daytona. I'm pretty pumped about that. I think in general that running both Series helps me a ton. I can't stand to sit around on a day and watch people race, so that will be awesome to drive the Henkel and Ameriquest Ford Fusion there. Ford just briefed us the other day and told us a lot of exciting news about the Fusion, so that should be a great car to run. You guys know me, I'm ready to go racing. This is going to be fun."

JACK ROUSH, Owner -- Roush Racing Ford Fusions


"The number of cars we get in the chase is gonna be real important to us. We make a strong case to our sponsors as we negotiate for support that all of our programs get the same access to technology, the same number of talented people and the same assignment of resources from every regard. Stock car racing, I want to make sure that everybody understands, I want it to be as exciting as it can possibly be for our fans because they're important to us. At the end of the day, all that the rest of us can do -- the folks, the competitors and the folks who work on the cars -- we just have to make sure that we don't screw up and create the kind of bad luck that could cause somebody to drop out of a race. I'm gonna float an idea on you. NASCAR is always floating an idea, but when they decide that this chase thing starts to lose its zeal and there's another dimension they could put on it to make it a little more exciting, I would make the suggestion that after five races they tie everybody to within five points, so that you have 50 points within five, and then of course the slippery slope you're on, once you do that you could do it 10 times. After every race you could make the order of the finish of points determine the order and then you could have them five points apiece, but whatever it takes to make this racing exciting I'm for. I'd like to not see the price of the tires go up anymore than they are because that's not very exciting for all of us, and there are some other things that are happening that probably aren't good for the teams and may be invisible to the fans, but whatever it is we can make it more exciting for the fans is what I think we need to be doing. The idea that we weren't able to win in 2005 in spite of the great year we had, and we did win in 2004 when we probably didn't have the best program and we did win in 2003 when we were the most consistent, if we weren't the fastest on a race-by-race basis, those are all things that just played themselves out according to whatever the rules are. Whatever the rules are, we're gonna go try to get success within those rules. But 2005 was a great year. If we can just get ourselves ready for 2006 and do the same thing we'll have another great year regardless of who wins."



"I remember Carl showing up at Mittler Brothers truck shop in what I think was painted with a brush. It was orange and it was like a Chevette or something."


"I think it was a Festiva."


"He had a really cute girl with him, though." EDWARDS -- "That's what I was actually gonna bring up is that we never really competed on the track, but you were giving her the eye and that was a little bit of competition there. I was ready to get out of the shop as quick as I could."


"But, no we didn't (race against each other). I don't think we did, but Kenny Schrader is also driving a Ford Fusion this year, too, so that should be exciting. That will be three Missouri guys."



"I thought that we had one of the best cars at Daytona, so right now I'm really liking it. But it's tough to tell though when you go to speedways because you're so dependent on the other guys that are around you in the draft. But our car by itself was really fast. Like I said, I think Vegas is the true test. I'm very excited. Roush Racing on the mile and a halves, I thought, was the best team and their record shows it. Obviously, the Yates engines run really well, so until we get to Vegas it's kind of hard to say. When you're sitting in a car you really can't tell whether you're sitting in a Ford or any manufacturer."



"Like it or not Toyota is a very important part of our economy today. We've got a lot of dealer investment dollars out there and we've got a lot of our population that works in Toyota plants around the country. So they have every right to be here. Based on the way that they have dealt with the other series that they've been in and what's happened to the series after they arrived and what happened to the series after they've left, NASCAR will have to think about what they allow them to do here in terms of changing the order of things technologically or the way we staff and the other things that we do. They have a way of carrying a different level of investment than would otherwise be justified based on the business aspects of the business, and we're yet to see how that will unfold. I knew that it was inevitable and I know that they'll be very tough competitors, but, again, like I said about the way they count the points and which races they decide are more important than other races as it relates to a championship, I welcome their being involved because I think they'll be good for the sport. I think they'll be great for the fans and the enthusiasm, I think, will sell more tickets to our race tracks. How we wind up dealing with the problems Ford Motor Company and General Motors are going through today and how that relates to the investment dollars that are in Japan versus the ones that are in Detroit and middle America I can't say. I'm not enough of an economist to be able to judge that, but for the near term we're gonna race them real hard."


"In the truck series -- we got some knocks last year for having the most competitors in a series, but based on the way they did the truck series we were second to Toyota, even though we didn't have the breadth or the depth economically that they did to be able to buy everything that we might like to have bought. But they operated their truck teams as one program and made the team owners just name owners only in order to justify what they were doing. But they have the same cars and the same engines and the same technology and wound up ruling that thing with pretty much of an iron hand. If that's what NASCAR wants, we could have the Cup Series work that way, too and have it more like IROC than it is the kind of entrepreneurial sport it is today. But I don't think that's where it will go. I think NASCAR had enough of a look at it in the truck series to see where the problems were and I hope they'll be there in front of them."


"On cost containment I think we went to the race track four times with the car of the future. We've cut it up and changed it three times and we invested $300,000 in it and bought our own tires and rented the race track at Talladega and did all the other things, so I don't know exactly how that's helping me. But we've had just about all the cost containment the teams can afford so far and I don't thing we've got a car yet that will race on a mile and a half race track. I guess we're gonna put the mile and a half race tracks to the end and say if we get it working on road races and short tracks, then we'll have to make it work on two-mile tracks and speedways. And if we get that done, then like it or not you're gonna have to take it on mile and a half tracks. But they're moving it out three years, which will be in the interest of limiting the cost. At least the teams won't have to absorb it all in one year, and to have that kind of a rollout is something we'd asked for and it certainly is in the interest of the teams. NASCAR is not the only group in the industry here that's interested in safety. The teams are interested in safetly. I can make a case, I should knock on wood here, that until Mark Martin had his knee and his back hurt, I was the driver that had been hurt the worst in my cars in 40 years of racing. So we have had safe race cars that by and large have looked after the well-being of our guys, and I'm very proud of that. When somebody tells me that they've got to protect me from myself, I wonder, really, if they were paying attention. But we're going to make an effort in the next three years to make the cars that we've got increasingly safer based on the technology and the information that comes out and what we see on the race tracks. We're not gonna wait for this car of the future. They're gonna continue to be made safer and whether or not the car of the future was necessary to incorporate the changes they want is the decision I didn't make and I didn't have the prerogative to make that or I probably would have made a different decision. But we're on our way. We're on schedule. We'll comply with whatever the requirements are there and we'll race them. Over the next three years we'll work our way in and four years from now we'll be in the car of the future, which will be four years in the future."


WAS THAT A CONCESSION ON NASCAR'S PART? "NASCAR floats ideas. A lot of times they say they're gonna do something and really they were just kidding. They were gonna see what you thought about it, so we weren't sure if that's what was going on here. One of the things that happened that really confused the issue is that they floated -- I won't name names -- but I'll say Mr. Hendrick. They floated it on Mr. Hendrick and they asked him what to do and he said, 'Well, just give it to us all at once. Let's get it over.' He hadn't talked to his guys and he went back and had a conversation with them and found out how impossible and how improbable it would be to do that. How they just couldn't do it based on the way they were staffed and what the cost was gonna be. So at that time NASCAR came back and was willing to hear the arguments because Rick basically went in and said, 'Look, I know I told you I'd rather change it all at once, but that isn't true. We can't do it and, by the way, nobody else can do it either. So three years after we got past the idea we'd take all the pain in one year and be done with it, after they got past that, then three years was the most generous amount of time that we thought they would be willing to accept to let it come in. If they would have accepted five years, I would have been happier to have it to be five years because if you divide the cost it's gonna be over the number of years, it would be something you could absorb better over five years than three, but three years is what we asked for. It was a concession and we will make it work."



"It was a difficult decision because we had plans and I was extremely excited about 2006 and opening a new chapter in my life. But one of the first commitments I made for 2006 was to put my family first and Jack knows that, so the conversation was had by Jack and Matt and Arlene about doing this before we went any further. So they come first. If they said, no, they didn't want me to do it, then I wouldn't be here today. But I haven't thought that much about it. I told you guys I would give you a philosophy on it when I had one. I still don't have one, so I guess what I've got going on for 2006 is that I'm gonna have some fun and it's either gonna be good or not, and I'm gonna be willing to accept whatever kind of results we have. If I get real, real, real lucky it can wind up being the best year of my career. And if not, then I can say the next-to-last year of my Cup racing was the best year because 2005 personally and professionally was, by far, the best year of my life and not everybody can say that."

Martin feels test at LVMS is the biggest this year
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Thursday, January 19, 2006

With only six test sessions allowed by NASCAR this season, veteran driver Mark Martin says the test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway may be the most important one this season.

Martin, who has had five top-10 finishes at LVMS, including his win in the inaugural NEXTEL Cup Race here in 1998 and two Busch Series wins, says that preparing for the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 will benefit the team all year.

"The practice in Las Vegas is important to us for a number of reasons," said Martin. "It's big because we are limited in our test sessions, so what we learn in Vegas will help us the rest of the season."

Martin says that the three days of testing will help his team determine car setups for many other tracks later in the season.

"We hope to learn enough to help us all year," said Martin. "We will be testing everything from springs, shocks, and a variety of different setups."

"I hope this will not be my last practice at Las Vegas," said Martin. "I hope I get to test my truck there next year."

Martin will join more than 40 other drivers at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway January 30-Feb. 1 for NASCAR Preseason Thunder Las Vegas.

The public is invited to watch the test sessions free of charge each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets for the March 10-12 NASCAR Weekend are available by calling 1-800-644-4444 or logging on to www.lvms.com.

Here is a tentative list of test dates and drivers:

Jan. 30-31: Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Robby Gordon, Jeff Green, Kevin Harvick, Dale Jarrett, Travis Kvapil, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler, Hermie Sadler, Ken Schrader, Brent Sherman, Reed Sorenson, David Stremme, Martin Truex Jr. and Scott Wimmer.

Jan. 31-Feb. 1: Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Sterling Marlin, Jeremy Mayfield, Casey Mears, Joe Nemechek, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, Scott Riggs and Brian Vickers.

Jan. 30 and Feb. 1: Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley.

Mark Martin hasn't been able to walk away from racing like he planned.
(Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)

Martin wasn't able to walk away from racing just yet
Alan Schmadtke - Sentinel Staff Writer
OrlandoSentinel.com: Motor Sports
January 20, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH -- Retirement never was going to be conventional for Mark Martin.

He had no plans for long vacations, no contracts to pen a memoir, no dreams of easing out of stock-car racing by working in TV.

"Soon-to-be-retired" was the phrase associated with Martin throughout 2005. For him, that meant staying behind a steering wheel, any wheel, while wiggling out of NASCAR's high-profile meat grinder that is the Nextel Cup series. He longed not for the nearest TV remote but merely for one or two more days off a week so he could help cultivate the racing career of 14-year-old son Matt.

Martin's idea of retirement -- perfectly mapped out, he thought -- was helping and watching Matt while indulging his newest love, driving trucks, and running a handful of Busch series races when time permitted.

"I couldn't quit. I couldn't quit racing," Martin said. "Racing is my life. It's been my life since I was 15 years old."

Yep, downsized racing, that was the plan.

Emphasis on "was." Reality and relationships intervened.

Kurt Busch wanted out of the Roush Racing stable a year early, and when Jack Roush agreed to let him go, he had a hole in his driver roster.

And so here's Martin, back at Daytona International Speedway, following a retirement plan favored by bands such as The Who and the Eagles -- one more "final" tour.

It'll be a challenge for Martin to top his last go-round. And he knows it.

He stepped out of his No. 6 car at Homestead Speedway in November with a runner-up finish to Greg Biffle in the race and a fourth-place points finish in the Nextel Cup standings. That followed his fifth IROC championship, which brought a $1 million prize.

"It was the best year of my life professionally and personally," said Martin, who has had plenty of good years.

His points finishes read something like a basketball yearbook at Duke: 12 top-fives in the past 14 years. And he's arguably the most decorated driver never to win a points crown.

At 47, he is the elder statesman in Roush Racing's garages. Teammates stop to listen when he talks. Most of the time, they heed his advice.

"If I could write a book, there's going to be a chapter about Mark Martin," said Carl Edwards, the hottest young driver at Roush and the driver The Sporting News picked to win this year's points chase. "He's an unbelievable guy. He has an amazing character. He actually treats people exactly how they treat him. I mean, he doesn't waver."

That may be the best explanation for why Martin said "yes" to a repeat retirement season. After what Roush has done for Martin -- giving him the financial, emotional and personnel support to put him in a fast car with a championship-caliber team year after year -- Martin couldn't leave his owner in a lurch.

When it came down to the nitty-gritty, though, Martin wanted Roush to clear it with wife Arlene and son Matt. If they said OK, Martin would return full time.

Longtime business manager Benny Ertell escorted the Martins to Roush's hauler last October in Kansas City.

"They were in there quite awhile," Ertell said.

Arlene and Matt gave their blessing. One more year.

Roush said Martin repaying years of support with another year on the Nextel circuit isn't the sole reason he's returning. Had Martin not raced Nextel in '06, his race team -- crew chief, car chief, pit hands and shop hands -- would have had one lame-duck season with a pair of rookies or a journeyman driver.

"Either way, their prospects for success weren't going to be what they would have hoped for," Roush said. "Out of consideration for them and for me, he said he'd do it. It would give his guys a chance to win."

Speedweeks is two weeks away, the Daytona 500 a month away, but Martin said he's not ready. When he arrived at DIS this week, the first media inquiry was whether he felt he could win Daytona.

He was floored. He hadn't thought about it. Fact is, he hadn't really thought much about the 2006 season beyond accepting a loaded schedule. He'll drive 36 Nextel races, seven Busch races and five truck races. For the first time, all will be in No. 6 vehicles.

This follows an offseason that kept him away from home most of the time. Ertell said his planner was filled with appearances throughout December: new and longtime sponsors needing love, handfuls of photo shoots for each race series, trips to Martin's hometown of Batesville, Ark., where he is constructing a Mark Martin Museum and a new house.

Then came details for his next life, creating and managing Matt's driving career: lining up sponsors, calculating schedules, working on cars. (Matt won his first Sportsman race on Saturday at New Smyrna Speedway, driving a No. 66 Ford.)

But first 2006, then retirement.

This time, he's serious.

"I've got a life to live," he said, "and I want to get started next year."

At a speedway near you.

Alan Schmadtke can be reached at aschmadtke@orlandosentinel.com

Mark Martin climbs from the No. 6 Ford after a morning run during NASCAR Nextel Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2006.
(AP Photo/Brian Myrick)

Champion Martin heads 13-man IROC field
January 18, 2006

TINTON FALLS, N.J. (AP) -- Five-time and defending champion Mark Martin heads a 13-man field for the 2006 Crown Royal International Race of Champions Series.

Martin will be joined in the four-race invitational series by reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart, former champion Matt Kenseth and budding star Carl Edwards, who finished third last year in his first full Cup season.

Also named Tuesday to the all-star lineup from NASCAR were two-time Busch Series champion Martin Truex, who will be a rookie this year in Cup, and Craftsman Truck Series champion Ted Musgrave.

Rounding out the field will be 20-time World of Outlaws sprint car champion Steve Kinser, seven-time ARCA stock car champion Frank Kimmel, Indy Racing League stars Sam Hornish Jr. and Scott Sharp and road racers Max Angelelli, Wayne Taylor and Max Papis.

In a first for IROC, Taylor and Papis, teammates and series champions last year in the Grand American Road Racing series, will share a ride, with each driving two races.

The 30th IROC season, with drivers vying for a $1 million championship purse, will open Feb. 17 at Daytona International Speedway. The series will also include events at Texas Motor Speedway on April 7, Daytona on June 29 and Atlanta Motor Speedway on Oct. 28. The second Daytona race will be run on the track's road course, the first road race in the IROC series in 14 years.

Martin preparing for final season in Nextel Cup
January 16, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- Mark Martin is preparing for his final Daytona 500 -- again.

Martin, who was planning to retire from NASCAR Nextel Cup racing to concentrate on trucks in 2006, was asked to stay one more year by longtime friend and team owner Jack Roush, who couldn't find a proper replacement for Martin in the No. 6 Ford.

Now, the popular 47-year-old racer is preparing for his 22nd Daytona 500 and dreaming about making it to Victory Circle.

``It's Daytona,'' Martin said Monday during a break in preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway. ``It's the biggest race of the year and I need to win it. This is my last chance. I'm just going to try to get in the front on the last lap and hog the track.''

Martin had a strong season in 2005, easily making it into the 10-man, 10-race Chase for the championship that closed out the year. He got one win -- his 35th -- and had 12 top fives and 19 top 10s in 36 races, finishing fourth in the standings.

The four-time series runner-up would love to close out his Cup career with a similar season.

``I would really love the 2005 performance to be the last year of my Cup so, if I could do that well again in '06, it would be fantastic,'' Martin said. ``If I could do better than that, obviously, it would be a dream come true. It would be incredible.

``If we could race for that championship and win, it would be the coolest thing. At the same time, realistically speaking, I know the odds that I'm up against and I can't believe that I was able to personally give the performance that I gave on the race track last year. It will be hard to do that again.''

The three-day test that started Monday is for teams that finished in the even positions in last year's final standings. The teams in the odd positions ran last week.

Kyle Busch, last year's top rookie, was fastest in the morning session at 186.629 mph, while longtime racing star Sterling Marlin, driving for the first time for MB2 Motorsports, was fastest for the day in the afternoon session at 187.110. Both drive Chevrolets.

Martin was 13th in both sessions with a top lap of 186.636 in the afternoon.

Ford Racing Notes and Quotes - Mark Martin - Daytona
January 16, 2006

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is coming off a fourth-place finish in last yearís NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series points race. Martin held a Q&A session in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center on his first day of testing for next monthís Daytona 500.


ďI hope this is the last one.Ē


ďIsnít it a little bit early to be worried about all that? (laughter) I donít know. Itís awfully early to be worrying about all of that. Iíve got so many things on my mind. There is a lot of stuff going on. Iím just gonna try to keep my head down and work real hard and make my team happy, make AAA happy and make some fans happy this year and work at it.Ē


ďYou know me. Iím wouldnít do the expectation deal too much. I would expect great enthusiasm and incredible intensity. Thatís what I would expect and I guarantee you youíll get that. I donít want to go into great detail. Carl and I did actually get crossways with one another a couple of times last year along the way in his development and thatís OK. We both learned a little something through all that. At the time we had different philosophies on a few things and I respect that. He certainly respects me, so thatís just part of moving along. Carl has worked harder, heís paid more attention than any driver that Iíve ever had contact with. Carl Edwards is paying attention, thatís for sure. Heís asked more questions than anyone ever has of me and there were a couple of times when he didnít get praise from me. Most of the time he does, but heís a lot of fun to be around and be a part of certainly.Ē


ďIím not sure Iím thinking about it yet. I was totally blindsided with my chances of winning the Daytona 500. I really havenít thought that much about it. Definitely at the banquet I still wasnít ready for that. My month of December was the busiest Iíve had in my life and a lot of that is because of all the things that werenít able to happen, that I wasnít able to do the last three months of the season based on the focus and effort that went into the chase, trying to catch up on that and get in the swing of some new sponsors. AAA, Coca-Cola, for example, were totally new to my program so that took a little additional time and what have you and here we are. Iím doing a lot of stuff right now. Iíve got a lot on my mind. I donít have a lot of control about Daytona. This is not like California. Our California cars havenít been to the wind tunnel yet. After they get done with the wind tunnel Iíll look at the numbers and start wrestling with the guys about why we werenít able to do what we hoped we would or be excited that we did more than we thought we might under the new scenarios that we have to deal with for í06. Then weíll go to Vegas and test and Iíll be as fierce as Iíve ever been in my life about trying to win the next race. But for Daytona Iím at the mercy of the engineers and the team and all those things. I donít really feel like I have a lot of input on the performance of the car, so Iím letting them do their work and staying out of it.Ē


ďThe truck is something that I really want to do. I was out here Friday with the 6 truck and with my team and with David Ragan. I tested the truck and I drafted and we worked really hard on getting the truck set up to really drive well for David to race in the race here, and then Iíll be in it at California. Itís something that I have a lot of passion for right now. Thatís why Iím doing that. Iíve put a lot of extra work on my plate and then it was not my intention to do Busch races, but because Roush Racing put together a package with Ameriquest to do an enormous amount of racing in the Busch Series, I was put in a position where they know I wonít say no, but I did argue down from 14 to seven races in the Busch Series. So Iím definitely not doing a full Busch Series schedule. Iím not Carl Edwards. Iím not that strong. Iíve got a couple of years on him, or some of these other guys that are really taking a full plate. Iím talking about 14 races and thatís manageable. Iíd say I can do that. Iím real excited about the truck and working with my team and working with David Ragan and getting that thing going as a kick start for 2007, where I can go do that full time and just have some big fun.Ē


ďTo be real honest with you, Iíve still got some time and thank goodness because like I said when we were in New York I wasnít really ready to address it yet. Obviously, Iíve been to a Cup test already this year, a truck test already this year and now weíre at Daytona and just on the first day. When we get Daytona out of the way, because I canít help those guys that much, and we start focusing on Vegas and then looking at California. I have the ferocity to build, but to be real honest with you Iím not there yet. I have been real busy. This December was the busiest Iíve ever been and I have been real busy to this point. Iím doing some things with Matt. I got to go racing with him twice since Homestead and heís really impressed me, and itís time for me to move his equipment up and make some changes. He raced last Saturday night at New Smyrna in the sportsman division for the first time and he wound up getting the win there, so weíre moving right on through that division and into the late model division. Equipment-wise, I wasnít prepared for that so Iím trying to help my guys do those kind of things and trying to get everything in order so that when the mad dash hits of Speedweeks thereís nothing else in my life but the Cup cars. Obviously, there is a lot of things in it right now and weíll kind of make that transition as we get closer to Speedweeks with the Vegas test and everything.Ē


ďI tell you what, I had fun last year, which was really cool. It was the best year of my life professionally and personally, so I just want everybody to make sure that they know that theyíre talking to a guy that had a blast last year. It would mean an awful lot to me to have the same kind of performance on the race track this year, so therefore Iím willing to be miserable if need be in order to have that. My tendency is to go off on that misery side to try to make sure that we get that performance. Iím gonna fight that a little bit, but Iím not ready to address all that strategy just yet. Iíve got a lot of balls in the air. Jack has a strategy that says, Ďdonít worry about it. I know you. Just go have fun with it this year. The pressure is off and you might do better than you ever have.í Boy, that sounds real good to me, but we all know that Iím gonna fall over that misery edge as soon as I get close enough to it that I can jump over it. Iíll work so hard at it that weíll go back to the other side. Itís really funny. Iím really gonna make an effort this year to handle things the way I did last year with the philosophy I had, with the fans, with the media and with my team. It will be a disappointment to me if we donít have Ė I would really love the 2005 performance to be the last year of my Cup Ė so if I could do that well again in í06, it would be fantastic. If I could do better than that, obviously it would be a dream come true. It would be incredible. If we could race for that championship and win it would be the coolest thing. At the same time, realistically speaking, I know the odds that Iím up against and I canít believe that I was able to personally give the performance that I gave on the race track last year. It would be hard for me to ask more of myself at this stage of my career, but youíre not gonna get the Jack Roush philosophy recommendation from me, and that is, Ďdonít sweat it, donít strain so hard, just go do it and see if it turns out.í Doggone it, thatís a good strategy. I wish that would work for me, but I love what happened the last lap of Homestead. Itís one of the few occasions where Iíve ever gotten beat that I had fun. Yeah, it would have been cool to win, but everybody was on their feet and thatís why I race. If I could have times in 2006 and some races like that, it would really fill in that last box for me because 2006 is the last Cup box for me and Iíd like to fill that in with great times like we had in 2005.Ē


ďWe really didnít lose any people. We only lost one person off the 6 team, but we promoted a couple of other guys within the company and it was time for them to move up and take on crew chief responsibilities on Busch teams because of Roushís expansion with Ameriquest and all the Busch teams theyíre gonna have this year. So we have a couple of new people in there, but you have that almost every year. I do still have Pat Tryson. I still have our engineer, Mike Janow. I still have my car chief, which is very important to me. Todd Zeigler is incredible and I would have had a hard time facing 2006 without Todd, but heís back with us. And some of the other guys that are on our team Iíve worked with on my Busch car in í05, so weíve worked together before. Iím feeling good about the team. Thereís no reason why we shouldnít have as good a year as last year. Thereís no reason. I mean weíve got it all. If anything, weíve improved on things and Iíll certainly drive my heart out and these guys will have my undivided attention when it comes time to get ready for these races and to focus and to go racing. But at the same time Iím gonna try to have some fun with the media and with the fans and the people that have helped me build this great career. Iíve got some really fun things on the schedule coming up in í06 that are outside the race car itself that will involve the fans especially as well as some of the media stuff.Ē


ďItís not my final lap. I couldnít quit racing. Racing is my life. Itís been my life since I was 15 years old and Iím certainly not ready to give up racing, so, for me, itís not that difficult to walk away from Nextel Cup because I realize where I am in my career. If I was 26, I wouldnít walk away. Itís time for me for a lot of reasons. I went over those reasons last year and all, but Iím gonna continue to race. Itís my whole life. Climbing in that race car today and going out there, Iím just wishing that we could be drafting because thatís the real deal. Thatís what I live for. Iíll continue to race. Itís my expectation to be in the 6 truck full-time, and then do some other appearances and what have. If something were to work out that I wasnít in that truck, youíd catch me at the Saturday night short tracks across the country. I am not done racing by any means.Ē


ďItís Daytona. The first time I came down here was 1981. Itís just a lot different as far as the preparation goes and we only do it four times a year. Itís just different. I can help these guys make a car that will fly at the next place, but for here there are a lot of other forces out there that I donít have control of, and so it is what it is. Itís Daytona. Itís the biggest race of the year and I need to win it. This is my last chance. Iím just gonna try to get in the front on the last lap and hog the track or something.Ē

Martin ready to sacrifice for success in final Cup season
By Mark DeCotis
January 17, 2006

DAYTONA BEACH - Mark Martin is as busy as he's ever been and coming off a 2005 he claims was the best personal and professional year of his life.

But lurking around the corner is that miserable side that is just aching to break out. And it will, he said. Just give it time.

Relaxed and upbeat heading into his final Daytona Speedweeks and Daytona 500, Martin said he has not yet sharpened his focus on the coming season, especially the 500 since he, like many of his peers, believes the driver has little input when it comes to racing on the 2.5-mile trioval.

But come the season's second race, Feb. 26 at 1.5-mile California and the March 12 race at 1.5-mile Las Vegas, Martin expects to be his old self again.

Entering his 19th full season at NASCAR's elite level, Martin hopes to build on last season's fourth-place finish in points, his second consecutive fourth-place effort. He also had one victory.

No matter what happens, he will leave Nextel Cup racing at the end of the season with his attention focused squarely on what's ahead.

But he sure would like a repeat of 2005, even if it means getting a little negative.

"It would mean an awful lot to me to have the same kind of performance on the race track this year, so therefore I'm willing to be miserable if need be in order to have that," Martin told reporters Monday.

"My tendency is to go off on that misery side to try to make sure that we get that performance. I'm gonna fight that a little bit . . . Jack (car owner Jack Roush) has a strategy that says 'don't worry about it. Just go have fun with it this year. The pressure is off and you might do better than you ever have.' Boy, that sounds real good to me," Martin added.

"But we all know that I'm gonna fall over that misery edge as soon as I can get close enough to it that I can jump over it."

Martin has a new sponsor this season in AAA and his team is relatively intact. With that knowledge, Martin expects 2006 to be at least equal to 2005.

Regardless, when 2006 ends, Martin will be moving on, but not out of racing. He plans a full season in the No. 6 in the Craftsman Truck Series in 2007.

"If something were to work out that I wasn't in that track, you'd catch me at the Saturday night short tracks around the country. I am not done racing my any means." Shepherd plans full season. With backing from Christian businessmen, Victory Motorsports and driver Morgan Shepherd plan on racing a full Nextel Cup schedule this season.

Brothers Tony and Brian Mullet, businessmen from Mt. Eaton, Ohio, are leading the effort to back the 64-year-old Shepherd, the oldest driver on the circuit and the oldest full-time driver in the sport's history.

"This is a tremendously exciting time for me as a race car driver but is also tremendously exciting because of the possibilities in spreading the Gospel," Shepherd said in a news release. Car of Tomorrow. NASCAR likely will introduce the Nextel Cup Car of Tomorrow on short tracks and road courses in 2007, officials said Monday. The car could see action on tracks 2 miles in length and longer in 2008 and intermediate-length tracks in 2009. NASCAR will formally introduce its plans Jan. 23 during NASCAR's media tour.

The schedule could change if race teams want to accelerate the car's introduction, officials said.

The NASCAR version of the car will be tested at Daytona on Thursday, along with between five and eight cars developed by race teams. Chevys top charts. Sterling Marlin topped the speed charts for the afternoon test session at Daytona, turning a lap of 187.110 in his MB2 Motorsports Chevy. Scott Riggs was second-fastest (186.775) in his Evernham Motorsports Dodge. Jamie McMurray was third (186.494) in his Roush Racing Ford while Marlin's teammate Joe Nemechek was fourth fastest (186.405).

Kyle Busch posted the top speed of the morning session, 186.629 mph in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy. Marlin had the second and fourth fastest speeds, 186.598 and 186.413.

McMurray was third fastest, turning a lap of 186.482. Riggs was the fastest Dodge (186.305) in his Evernham Motorsports Charger. IROC lineup. The International Race of Champions will announce its 2006 driver lineup today at Daytona. The series will feature 12 drivers from seven major racing series.

Contact DeCotis at 242-3786 or markeadecotis@aol.com

Crown Royal IROC Series Announces 2006 Driver Field

Five-time Series Winner Mark Martin Enters Historic 30th Anniversary Season as Reigning Champion

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Jan. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) officials announced today the driver field and race event schedule for the 2006 Crown Royal IROC Series.

The four-race invitational all-star series, which matches 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars, will open its historic 30th season February 17 at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). Five-time Crown Royal IROC Series and 2005 champion Mark Martin will look to capture consecutive series crowns for the first time since Dale Earnhardt accomplished the feat in the 1999-2000 seasons. Martin won three in row from 1996-1998 and owns an IROC-record 13 checkered flags.

The 2006 driver field will consist of representation from seven major racing series, including six drivers that captured their respective series championship in 2005.

The 2006 Crown Royal IROC Series drivers vying for the $1 million championship purse include:

Driver, Series Representing:

Mark Martin, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup (2005 Crown Royal IROC champion)
Tony Stewart, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup (2005 Series champion)
Martin Truex Jr., NASCAR Busch Series (2005 Series champion)
Steve Kinser, World of Outlaws (2005 Series champion)
Ted Musgrave, NASCAR Craftsman Truck (2005 Series champion)
Frank Kimmel, ARCA Re/Max Series (2005 Series champion)
Max Angelelli/Wayne Taylor, Grand American Road Racing (2005 Series champions)
Max Papis, Open-wheel and road racing disciplines
Carl Edwards, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series
Sam Hornish, Jr., IRL IndyCar Series
Scott Sharp, IRL IndyCar Series
Matt Kenseth, NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series

"For three decades, IROC has tried to bring together the very best champion drivers from all forms of racing disciplines," said Jay Signore, IROC President. "This year, our 30th season, is no different. We have another strong field and look forward to the competition heating up at Daytona."

The Crown Royal IROC Series will consist of four races on diverse race tracks. In an effort to return to its roots for this historic season, the Crown Royal IROC Series will compete on a road course for the first time in 14 years, when it does on the famed road course at DIS on Thursday, June 29, in conjunction with the NASCAR Cup race weekend. Sandwiched between the two DIS events will be Race Two at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, April 7, with the season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 28.

"It is an honor to partner with a racing series that involves the world's best race car drivers," said James Lorenz, Senior Brand Manager, Crown Royal. "The Crown Royal IROC driver lineup for 2006 is an exemplary group that represents the finest characteristics of racing on and off the track. This series, with its distinct history and consistent line-up of champions, continues to be the perfect platform to advance our 'Be a Champion. Drink Responsibly,' campaign."

2006 Crown Royal IROC Series Driver Field:

Mark Martin, reigning Crown Royal IROC Series champion, owns a record-best five series titles and 13-career wins. Last season, Martin placed fourth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup final point standings with one win, 12 top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. Martin drives for Roush Racing's AAA NASCAR NEXTEL Cup team.

Tony Stewart claimed fives checkered flags, including the Brickyard 400, on his way to capturing the NASCAR NEXTEL Series title in 2005. This was Stewart's second crown (2002) in the seven seasons that he has competed in NASCAR Cup. During his first championship campaign, he captured five races, three poles and 17 top-five finishes. Stewart drives for the Home Depot team of Joe Gibbs Racing.

Two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion (2005, '04) Martin Truex Jr. returns for his second season in the Crown Royal IROC Series after finishing second in his series debut in 2005. Truex is the first driver in the 24-year history of the NBS to amass more than $3 million. Truex represents the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated Bass Pro Shop team.

Twenty-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser, representing the Quaker State team, had a stellar year in 2005, highlighted by capturing the series title. Other major races won in 2005 included: his 10th Eagle Nationals, 6th Kings Royal, 12th Gold Cup Race of champion and the Eagle Short Track Nationals. Kinser's 2006 invite will be his seventh appearance in IROC.

Ted Musgrave, the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, will make his first start in the Crown Royal IROC Series. His career earnings totaled $3,772,884 to rank the veteran competitor third all-time in the NCTS.

Frank Kimmel, the 2005 and seven-time ARCA champion, joined Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt as the only drivers in the history of stock car auto racing to win seven titles on a national tour that competes on both short-tracks and super speedways. He will make his IROC debut this season.

Teammates Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor were the 2005 Grand American Rolex Series champions, representing the Sun Trust Prototype team. Taylor was the recipient of the 2005 top driver award.

Representing road racing and open-wheel racing disciplines, Max Papis makes a return to the IROC Series after his debut in 2005. Papis earned wins in the 2005 Grand Prix of Atlanta and at Laguna Seca in the SCCA SPEED World Challenge GT class. In 2004, Papis won the Grand American Road Racing championship with teammate Scott Pruett.

Carl Edwards, who represents the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series of Roush Racing's Office Depot Team, finished third in the 2005 final points standings. In addition, Edwards claimed five checkered flags and the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in the NASCAR Busch Series en route to a third-place series finish.

Sam Hornish Jr., a two-time IRL IndyCar Series champion (2001, '02), finished third in the series championship points for Marlboro Team Penske. Last season, he had nine top-five finishes, 12 top-10 finishes and received the Marlboro Pole Award at Motegi (Japan), Richmond and Milwaukee.

Also representing the IRL IndyCar Series is 1996 co-champion Scott Sharp, who placed fifth in the series last year with the Delphi Fernandez team. He recorded six top-five and 13 top-10 finishes, highlighted by a career-best seventh-place finish at the 89th Indianapolis 500.

Representing the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Matt Kenseth finished seventh in series championship points with one win, 12 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. Kenseth is the 2003 NASCAR Cup champion and the 2004 IROC champion.

Tickets for the Crown Royal IROC Series opening race and other Daytona Speedweeks events are available online at: http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling the Daytona International Speedway ticket office at (386) 253-7223.

About IROC:

Crown Royal International Race of Champions (IROC) is auto racing's All-Star Game. It is an invitational racing series matching 12 drivers from different disciplines of auto racing in equally prepared cars on Goodyear Eagle radial racing tires. The Series consist of four races with points awarded for finishing positions. At the end of the fourth race, points are tallied and a champion of champions is named.

About Crown Royal:

Crown Royal, the number one selling Canadian whisky, has a tradition as long and distinctive as its taste. Specially blended to commemorate a grand tour of Canada made by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain in 1939, Crown Royal's smooth, elegant style reflects its aristocratic origins and is considered the epitome of Canadian whisky. In addition to its sponsorship of the Crown Royal IROC Series and Roush Racing's No. 26 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Team, the brand also sponsors The Crown Royal Bad Boys of Comedy Tour, the Crown Royal American Turfstakes race at Churchill Downs and a number of other major regional and national events. For more information on Crown Royal, visit http://www.crownroyal.com.

About Diageo:

Crown Royal is proudly owned by Diageo (Dee-AH-Gee-O), the world's leading premium drinks business with an outstanding collection of beverage alcohol brands across spirits, wines, and beer categories. These brands include Johnnie Walker, Guinness, Smirnoff, J&B, Baileys, Cuervo, Tanqueray, Captain Morgan, Crown Royal, Beaulieu Vineyard and Sterling Vineyards wines.

Diageo is a global company, trading in more than 200 countries around the world. The company is listed on both the New York Stock Exchange (DEO) and the London Stock Exchange (DGE). For more information about Diageo, its people, brands, and performance, visit us at http://www.diageo.com.

Celebrating life, every day, everywhere, responsibly.

AAA Previews NEXTEL Cup Series #6 Ford Fusion; Legendary Driver Mark Martin Featured in Teen Driver Safety PSAs; AAA Partnership with Roush Racing to Support Teen Driving Initiative in 2006

North American International Auto Show 2006

DETROIT--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 10, 2006--AAA today previewed its NEXTEL Cup Series #6 AAA Ford Fusion at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

AAA has partnered with Roush Racing to serve as the primary sponsor of the #6 racecar during the next three racing seasons, 2006 through 2008. Legendary racecar driver Mark Martin deferred his retirement for one year to continue piloting the #6 racecar on behalf of AAA in 2006.

In a news conference at Detroit's Cobo Convention Center, AAA also announced Martin will be featured in a series of public service television announcements focusing on teen driver safety, AAA's principal public affairs and advocacy initiative in 2006.

Speaking about AAA's NEXTEL Cup sponsorship, Thomas McKernan, chairman of the AAA Motor Sports Subcommittee and president/CEO of Auto Club Enterprises, said AAA's partnership with Roush Racing will help raise AAA's profile with auto racing fans.

"AAA's business strategy behind being a major motor sports sponsor is based on the future," noted McKernan. "By placing the familiar AAA logo on Number Six, AAA will gain new opportunities to expand brand awareness among the younger, 18-to-44-year-old demographic that make up more than half the NASCAR fan base.

"Also, AAA has a long history of vehicle and driver safety advocacy, and we plan to work with Roush Racing and Mark Martin to develop traffic and driver safety messages for the motoring public," he added.

"I am delighted by AAA's decision to expand its auto racing sponsorship through their partnership with Roush Racing for the 2006-2008 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race seasons," said Jack Roush, team owner and CEO of Roush Racing.

"AAA brings a well-respected brand and a distinguished tradition of excellence to our auto racing family. And as America's largest and most prestigious auto club-coupled with its historic connection to auto racing, AAA is a natural fit as a motorsports sponsor," Roush said.

AAA President Robert Darbelnet announced that AAA has produced a series of three 15- and 30-second public service announcements featuring Martin, which center on the need for parents to set a good example for children when it comes to safe driving.

The announcements, which introduce the phrase, "There's no better role model on the road than you," are particularly well suited for Martin, according to Darbelnet.

"As we've been discussing today, AAA is extremely fortunate to be associated with Roush Racing and Mark Martin this year. As a strong advocate of highway safety and the father of a 13-year-old son who will be seeking his driver's license in a few short years, Mark has made it clear he has a keen interest in being involved in our teen driver initiative," said Darbelnet.

AAA has led the fight to enact graduated drivers' licensing legislation in all 50 states and the District of Columbia over the past eight years, Darbelnet said.

"When our clubs first became engaged in this issue in 1997, rules and regulations governing the licensing of teen drivers were extremely limited," he said. "Now, eight years later, every state in the Union has passed some form of graduated driver licensing legislation thanks to the advocacy efforts of our clubs and their local traffic safety partners. As a result, teen drivers are gradually being given additional driving privileges as their on-the-road experience expands."

Darbelnet also pointed to the significant contributions motorsports has made to the safety of passenger vehicles. Even though motorsports are not without risk, Darbelnet said many advances in safety that were developed for the racetrack have ultimately saved lives both on the track and off.

Some examples of these contributions to traffic safety include rearview mirrors, traction and stability control systems, hydraulic brakes, crumple zones, seatbelts and vehicle air bags.

The AAA #6 Ford Fusion racecar will make its NEXTEL Cup Series debut at the first race of the season, which takes place at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona, Florida on February 19.

With nearly 49 million members in the United States and Canada, AAA is North America's largest motor club and membership organization. The not-for-profit association is best known for its legendary roadside assistance, comprehensive leisure travel and information services and its support of improved traffic safety and other consumer issues.

Ford Racing: News
January 5, 2006


Concord, N.C. ó Continuing the 2005 review of the issues resulting from a largely successful season for Ford Racing comes No. 5 Mark Martin. Sure, there were some sour apples in the basket, but overall, Team Ford made striking and dramatic progress in Ď05. The last installment included 6.


Mark Martin, lead driver for Roush Racing from the team's inception in 1987 and perhaps Ford's most dependable player for nearly two decades, has set unquestionable standards for fidelity and integrity throughout his career. He has nothing to prove.

The 47-year old, had begun in late Ď04 to lay plans for retirementóthat is, stepping quietly off the Nextel Cup treadmill. His plans were nearly complete by mid-Ď05. He would scale back to a Roush-backed Craftsman Truck effort, with which he could satisfy his own racing cravings and at the same time help bring younger drivers into the Ford/Roush fold.

Meanwhile, Martin quietly conducted his Salute to You events, conducted to show appreciation to fans and companies which had supported his long and successful career, the sheet showing 35 race victories and an agonizing four second-places in the championship. Martin, who failed miserably in his attempt to enter the big-top in 1981, is sincerely grateful to one and all.

Just about anyone would have given Martin the green light for a job well done as he came to the stretch run in Ď05. Perhaps the only man with leverage to change Martinís mind was owner Jack Roush, but the benefits gained by the two men certainly left no obligation unfilled.

It took extraordinary circumstances to blow up the well-laid plans, and what happened in late summer/early fall Ď05 was beyond what anyone ever had seen. First, Roush signed driver Jamie McMurray away from Chip Ganassi, ostensibly to replace Martin in the No. 6. Ganassi, however, insisted he would hold McMurray to his contract, which stretched through Ď06.

Then, Penske Racing snatched defending Cup champion Kurt Busch away from Roush. Although Roush also insisted he would enforce Busch's contract (through Ď06), the three owners hit an impasse, which resulted in a two-month stare down.

Roush, seemingly with nowhere to turn, turned to Martin, pleading with his veteran to stay one more year in the No. 6. Martin reluctantly agreed, noting that Jack had been "in tears" at times as he sought to glue together his five-team organization.

Roush then was able to reshuffle his deck of drivers and sponsors, placing AAA as new sponsor of the No. 6, with Martin. Then, finally, Roush, Penske and Ganassi reached agreements (at unspecified terms) to allow the releases of Busch and McMurray.

The new lineup shows McMurray in the No. 26 Sharpie car, with Matt Kenseth (DeWalt Tools), Greg Biffle (National Guard) and Carl Edwards (Office Depot) set in their situations. The No. 97 has been reserved.

The righteous outcome would be for Martin finally to win a long-sought championship in what amounts to a overtime. Last September, Martin wondered aloud whether he and his team could gather it up one more time in Ď06. As of the turn of the year, however, he sounded a good bit more positive.

Museum gets Martin's first car - sort of
By Steve Rogers
NWAnews.com - Northwest Arkansas' News Source
December 16, 2005

More than 30 years ago, 15-year-old Mark Martin rolled onto a racetrack for the first time.

On Thursday, the car he drove that day ó or at least a close facsimile of it ó rolled into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame museum.

Martin, of Batesville, went on to become one of NASCARís biggest stars. But his career began in April 1974 on the dirt track at Independence County Speedway near Batesville, driving a bright orange, 1955 Chevrolet built by his father, Julian, Larry Shaw and Troy Lynn Jeffrey.

Restoring Martinís first car for the museum was chiefly Shawís job, along with his employees at Larry Shaw Race Cars in Batesville. Shaw said he wanted to reproduce the car exactly as the original, and its driver was impressed with the results.

ďIt blew Mark away,Ē Shaw said, referring to Martin, who was out of state Thursday. ďWe put a lot of time and effort into it, and it turned out really, really nice.Ē

Martin raced the car in the six-cylinder class in 1974 and 1975 at several tracks around the state. He won the six-cylinder state championship in 1974 at what is now I-30 Speedway in Little Rock. In 1974-1975, he won 13 consecutive feature races at I-30, which is still a track record.

Typically, dirt cars are pretty well used up after two seasons on the track. Presumably, the car then was taken to the salvage yard.

Finding original parts from the car or even parts from the era was next to impossible, Shaw said. But there was an extensive search and some outdated parts, like the wheels, were specially made for the museum piece.

ďNot too many parts of the original car were still around,Ē Shaw said. ďAnd when you were able to find a piece, the person usually knew what it was and didnít want to let it go.Ē

Shaw and his crew made sure to reproduce the carís original lettering and painting. The chief oddity of the car was that it was center-steer, meaning the driver sat in the middle of the car rather than to one side.

ďI think Markís mom had more to do with that than anyone,Ē Shaw said. ďShe was worried about his safety more than anything, and it seemed like to us that he would be safer sitting in the middle of the car.Ē

While the car seemed to be a perfect fit for the museum, it barely fit into the museum. In order to get the car into the main showroom, two sets of glass doors and two water fountains had to be removed. Shaw and about six others helped push and slide the car into the building, with just inches to spare at several points.

Ray Tucker, the executive director for the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, said the car will be one of the main draws for the museum, which is scheduled to open in April.

ďAnd it will be a permanent exhibit,Ē Tucker said, laughing. ďWith the fun we had getting it in here, weíll all probably be long gone and that car will still be here.Ē

Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame
4 Shackleford Plaza, Suite 100
Little Rock, AR 72211
Phone: (501) 663-4328

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