Friday, February 18, 2011

Going deep with Mark Martin

   I recently spent a good bit of time talking with Sprint Cup driver Mark Martin about his future in the sport, about what still drives him, how he sees his career playing out and the many different routes its taken over the last seven years.

   Much of the discussion was used for a story which will appear on ThatsRacin.com and CharlotteObserver.com shortly, but we discussed so many topics I wanted to share some of the answers that didn't make the story. They're below:
  
   You find yourself looking down the road? Ever thinking of not driving?
   Martin: I do think about it. In 2005, I had this feeling that all I wanted to do was go home and just sit on the couch because I hadn’t done that. That’s what I wanted to do. I did that and now I have a good balance of that – I get some couch time and some super-quality family time. But my passion is racing and I realize that there is going to have to be a transition and it will have to be a gradual transition from driving to my next involvement in racing. I embrace that but the people in the garage don’t take to me about that. Nobody in the garage wants to talk to me about anything I could do for them except drive their car. That’s the reality. That’s not me, that’s reality. That’s all they want to talk to me about. I am interested in getting involved in an organization where I can make a transition, but it may not work out. Most of the time in this sport, when you can’t drive any more, the sport has no use for you. You can name them – Ernie Irvan, Bobby Allison, you name it. If you can’t be a broadcast, which I can’t, there’s no use for you in this sport today. Unless you want to be an owner. I don’t want to be involved in racing bad enough to be an owner. That could change, too. Someone could present me with an opportunity like Tony Stewart had, which might or might not happen in my lifetime, then I would consider it.

   In a sport where no matter how good you are, you always lose more than you win, what is the most alluring thing about it for you? 
   That’s a complex question and it probably changes with age and longevity. For me today, having fans that support you in their enthusiastic way, working around people that admire and respect you and are excited to be associated with you, to be able to help them realize their potential and maybe their dreams is very rewarding. To work as one spoke in a big wheel is kind of fun – it’s kind of like life as I’ve known it. I don’t know if I would enjoy it if I wasn’t better than two-thirds of them out there still. I hate to make a statement like that but I can still hold my own. If I couldn’t hold my own against most of them then I don’t think it would be as much fun for me. I thought that was gone in 2005, too. I thought I was diminished at that time and I thought that was just the way it was. I didn’t know I could have the year that I had in 2008 or a year like I had in 2009 or for that matter, a year like I had in 2010, because there again I outran two-thirds of them.

   Can you envision a day when racing is not what you’ll want to do?   Racing still makes me happy. Brian Vickers (who returns to competition this season after missing most of 2010 with a blood clot problem) and I have something in common now. We have sort of shared the experience of looking the end (of our careers) in the face. That was one of my considerations in 2005. After experiencing that, I know now that’s not what I want. I could be anywhere in the world right now I want. I could be on any beach in the world. I want to be at the race track. I don’t do it because I need to, have to or anything else. I do it because I want to.  I appreciate it now more than I ever did. I took a lot of things for granted. There are a number of reasons you might quit doing something, one of those reasons is if what you do stands in the way of what you want to be doing. Racing did stand in the way of me doing what I wanted to do in 2005. So, I had to weigh that out. I was willing to give up the kind of schedule I had to be able to do what I wanted to do which was have some time away from racing with my son and with my wife and my family. 
   It’s doubtful that will ever come in my lifetime. There is a transition from what I do now to what I will do in the future, but it’s still most likely going to be racing until the end, much like a Richard Petty. It is possible that I find a new passion. I used to as a kid, my passion changed frequently. It just has really never waivered since I started racing in 1974. The only thing I was willing to do was give up my fulltime schedule to spend more time with family.

   Does racing still bring you the same fullfillment?   Racing still makes me happy. Brian Vickers (who returns to competition this season after missing most of 2010 with a blood clot problem) and I have something in common now. We have sort of shared the experience of looking the end (of our careers) in the face. That was one of my considerations in 2005. After experiencing that, I know now that’s not what I want. I could be anywhere in the world right now I want. I could be on any beach in the world. I want to be at the race track. I don’t do it because I need to, have to or anything else. I do it because I want to.  I appreciate it now more than I ever did. I took a lot of things for granted. There are a number of reasons you might quit doing something, one of those reasons is if what you do stands in the way of what you want to be doing. Racing did stand in the way of me doing what I wanted to do in 2005. So, I had to weigh that out. I was willing to give up the kind of schedule I had to be able to do what I wanted to do which was have some time away from racing with my son and with my wife and my family. 
  


  

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