NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA 400 Preview: #6, Mark Martin
17 September 1997
By Williams Company of America, Inc. #6 Mark Martin, Valvoline Ford Thunderbird NASCAR Winston Cup Series MBNA 400 Advance Dover Downs International Speedway MARK MARTIN NOTES & QUOTES: MBNA 400 DOVER, DE - Locked in a torrid battle with Jeff Gordon for the 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup championship, Mark Martin and the Valvoline Ford team head to the one-mile, high-banked Dover Downs (Del.) International Speedway this week for Sunday's MBNA 400. Martin finished second at Dover in the May race, and was fifth in this race a year ago. The 38-year-old 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 Jimmy Fennig. The thoughts of Valvoline Ford driver Mark Martin heading into Dover: "Dover is a pretty neat race track. They changed it on me a few years ago and went away from the asphalt surface, which is too bad. I can certainly understand their reasons for wanting to change surfaces. Economically, it makes a lot of sense. And you don't have to worry about a lot of things that can happen to an asphalt track happening to a concrete track. But I still miss the asphalt at Dover. "I used to really, really love Dover until they concreted it. I still like racing there a lot because I love high-banked race tracks but the concrete has affected my affections for racing there. It's still a good race track but it's not as much fun as it used to be. "Concrete is a lot different to drive on. Concrete doesn't lend itself to two racing grooves the way asphalt does. On concrete you can really get hooked up really get a great grip on the track surface. But if you break loose on concrete, you would stand a better chance of catching the car and saving it on a frozen lake. Break loose on concrete and it's almost like ice. On asphalt, you can feel a certain amount of slippage before the car loses traction completely. With concrete you stick really well but if you break loose, you crash. On asphalt you can catch it and keep going. "The thing is, that breaking loose can affect you in a number of ways. You don't just have to worry about your car, you have to worry about the guy you are passing or the guy right in front of you. Does he have hold of it? Did he slip just a little and go flying? You're thinking clearing the next car as quickly as you can. Plus, if you are driving on the ragged edge you are taking a chance on crashing in the turns. I like driving on the ragged edge. It's hard to do that on concrete. "The car just feels different on concrete. It 'dances.' It jumps, it jiggles, it wiggles. Tell me that won't get your attention pretty quick -- steaming around a one-mile speedway every 24 seconds while your race car is doing the Macarena. "I really don't mean any of this as criticism but just the way things are. It's not like the only people who have to worry about it are the ones with the white Valvoline stickers on the quarterpanels. Everybody has to deal with it, and everybody does. Concrete is just different. I happen to prefer the asphalt. It's still a really great place to race. "Shoot, I'm happy we're racing on a track with as much banking as Dover. The more banking, you have, the faster you go. And I love going fast. If you want to go fast, you've got to have the banking. That's what racing is all about -- going fast. Race tracks are supposed to be high-banked like a Dover or a Bristol or a Talladega. Man, if you want to run on something level, you need to go drag racing. "We're still running as hard as we can go for the championship. We've lost a few points over the past couple of weeks but with seven races left, it's still anybody's to win. I don't figure Jeff Gordon and those guys have written us off any more than we've written off (third-place) Dale Jarrett and that crowd. Nobody in this sport gives up too easily. Plus, with our schedule it's tough to get too high or too low. We are so busy it's hard to take the time to get too happy or to get tee down. There is just too much to do. There are too many places to go. There are too many things to get done. We leave one place, got home for a day or two, then we're off to the next place. The good thing is, when things aren't so great, you can't get too down. The bad thing is, when things are going really good, there isn't much to celebrate. "A good run at Dover, and maybe this Valvoline Ford team will take a few minutes and celebrate."